Rep. Doug Lamborn urges $30 billion in entitlement cuts to pay for more defense spending

December 3, 2013 Updated: December 3, 2013 at 6:03 pm
photo - Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn is pushing a plan to cut entitlement spending in favor of defense spending increases. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)
Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn is pushing a plan to cut entitlement spending in favor of defense spending increases. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File) 

Congressman Doug Lamborn is pushing a plan that would cut federal programs including Social Security, Medicare and crop insurance subsides by $30 billion a year so defense spending can be increased.

The Colorado Springs Republican said Tuesday that the cuts, including a $20 billion annual reduction in cost of living increases to Social Security, may entice fiscal conservatives to back a bigger Pentagon budget - an extra $108 billion over two years.

"My hope is that it is received very well, especially by folks on the budget committee, especially (Republican budget chairman) Paul Ryan," Lamborn said.

The Pentagon budget has been tangled in congressional wrangling for months. The Defense Department is operating under a temporary measure that authorizes spending at fiscal year 2013 levels through Jan. 15. Without a budget deal before then, another government shutdown may loom.

Lamborn, whose district includes El Paso County, would achieve most of the savings by changing how the government calculates cost-of-living increases by using a "chained" consumer price index. While the index now calculates living expenses based on price increases for goods and services, the "chained" calculation assumes consumers will find ways to economize to avoid inflation, slowing cost-of-living growth.

That and other proposed cuts have been offered before by Democratic President Barack Obama, which Lamborn cites as a degree of political cover for cuts to popular programs.

For months, Lamborn has called for entitlement cuts in favor of bigger defense budgets, but has offered few specifics.

His proposed defense boost is aimed to counter the impacts of "sequestration" - $50 billion in annual Pentagon budget cuts that took hold earlier this year after Congress failed to reach a deficit control agreement.

Pentagon leaders including Army chief Gen. Ray Odierno and Air Force boss Gen. Mark Welsh have said the across-the-board cuts have hurt military readiness.

But will cutting social programs in favor of the military rile voters?

"I don't think that's a huge concern because people in the 5th Congressional District understand that defense spending is critical both nationally and locally," Lamborn said.

Lamborn said he's worried that the Pentagon cuts will mean fewer troops in Colorado Springs and less spending on programs that benefit local defense contractors. The Pikes Peak region is home to five military bases and business groups estimate that military spending accounts for 40 percent of the local economy.

"I'm concerned that we're reducing personnel of both the Air Force and the Army," he said. "I'm concerned about missile defense not being fully funded."

One of the biggest worries of local commanders has been budget uncertainty. A few months into the fiscal year, which ended Oct. 1, Congress passed a $630 billion defense spending plan for, before sequestration took hold for $37 billion in cuts.

This year, the Pentagon is working under a short-term budget deal and faces more than $50 billion in sequestration cuts, which leaders say has hampered planning for 2014.

With sequestration and another series of cuts planned to slim a post-war Pentagon, the Defense Department is looking at carving $1 trillion from its budget over a decade.

Lamborn hopes a budget deal can be reached soon to bring certainty to the Pentagon's 2014 plans.

"What I'm hearing is that we have a 50-50 chance of a budget agreement with the working group that's meeting right now," Lamborn said.

Meanwhile, he's introduced a bill that offers his mix of long-term cuts and short-term defense spending.

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