(CNSNews.com) – At a House hearing examining how across-the-board federal budget cuts will harm programs for military personnel and their families, Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) said Congress should stop sending billions of dollars to Afghanistan and use the money instead to “take care of our men and women in uniform.”
“I sit here in amazement to think about the problems that you have,” Jones told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel on Wednesday. “And here we are, having Mr. [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai trying to injure our new Secretary of Defense.”
“We’re spending, roughly, $6 to $8 billion a month in Afghanistan,” Jones said. The sequester cuts for 2013, which started to go into effect on Mar. 1, amount to $44 billion, about 1.2 percent of the entire federal budget of $3.7 trillion.
Jones then criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of the war, calling it “a failed policy.”
“We in Congress will certainly be debating sequestration and where we’re going to make the cuts, keep putting pressure on you to provide our men and women in uniform – their families – adequate programs,” Jones said. “And yet, I doubt if Mr. Karzai is worried a bit about his budget.”
“Just how ridiculous it is that our men and women in uniform, who are our heroes, as you are; who deserve so much, and here we are hearing you, worried to death about if you can provide the quality they’ve earned, and yet Karzai is over there – I cannot understand why the Congress does not say, 'Cut the money off'” said Jones.
“Let’s spend the money here in America,” Jones said. “Let’s rebuild our military. Let’s rebuild our equipment. Let’s give [the military] what they were promised.”
“And I hope as we move forward this year, this sequestration and how we are going to balance the budget, that there will be enough members of Congress in both parties to start cutting the funding in Afghanistan and have that funding come back here to America and help you take care of our men and women in uniform,” Jones said.
Jones said Afghanistan does not face the same kind of budget crisis as that in the United States because of the money Congress has allocated to the Afghan government.
“The American people need to understand that the problems you’re facing today -- there are no problems for the government of Afghanistan,” Jones said. “They’re going to get their money.”
Jones further said that the Inspector General for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, John Sopko, recently testified before Congress and told lawmakers that the United States is spending $235 million in taxpayer dollars every day to that end.
According to Sopko’s quarterly report on reconstruction in Afghanistan, released on Jan. 30, 2013, the money being spent on that country is substantial and historic.
“The Congress has appropriated nearly $89 billion to rebuild Afghanistan—more than the United States has ever spent on the reconstruction of any other nation,” the report states. “Of the nearly $13.8 billion appropriated to four of the largest reconstruction funds for FY 2012, about $8.6 billion remains to be obligated.”
“The President’s FY 2013 budget request includes nearly $10 billion for Afghanistan’s reconstruction,” the report states. “If appropriated, these funds will bring the amount available to more than $19 billion.”
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), chairman of the subcommittee, said in his opening statement that the hearing would “focus on the challenges of maintaining an all-volunteer force in a budget-constrained environment by looking at the impacts on military personnel and family-related programs.
“These programs, such as Morale, Welfare and Recreation; Child Care;
Military Exchanges; Commissaries; and Family Services, which include DOD Schools, are vital to maintaining the readiness of the military,” Wilson said.
Ranking member Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) used her opening remarks to chastise her colleagues.
“Unfortunately, the only people who have the ability to solve this issue is Congress,” Davis said. “We must find common ground and be willing to compromise for the long-term stability of our nation.”
The panel testifying about the effects of the Budget Control Act of 2011 -- which put the $44 billion sequestration cuts into play on Mar. 1, 2013 -- included Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, deputy chief of staff (G-1) U.S. Army; Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, U.S. Air Force; Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, deputy commandant, manpower and reserve affairs, U.S. Marine Corps; Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, deputy chief of naval operations, manpower, personnel, training, and education, U.S. Navy; Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs Jonathan Woodson; and Acting Defense Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright.