Skip Navigation

Close and don't show again.

Your browser is out of date.

You may not get the full experience here on National Journal.

Please upgrade your browser to any of the following supported browsers:

Rumsfeld Meets With House Republicans Rumsfeld Meets With House Republicans

This ad will end in seconds
Close X

Not a member? Learn More »

Forget Your Password?

Don't have an account? Register »

Reveal Navigation


Defense / Defense

Rumsfeld Meets With House Republicans

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, left, and former Vice President Dick Cheney walk off the stage together at the CPAC winter meeting in Washington on Feb. 10, 2011.(Chet Susslin)

photo of Megan Scully
October 3, 2011

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Monday inserted himself into the ongoing debate over Pentagon spending, meeting behind closed doors with hawkish House Armed Services Committee Republicans who are on a crusade to protect the military’s accounts from further budget cuts.

Rumsfeld, who had an often contentious relationship with lawmakers during his tumultuous time as Pentagon chief, warned committee members about the dangers of assigning any specific amount in cuts to the defense budget before completing a review of the department’s strategy and priorities.

“The first responsibility of government is to protect the American people,” Rumsfeld told National Journal after the meeting. “It’s important to have priorities and a strategy and know what you would like to do and then fund against those priorities and those strategies.”


Doing so, he said, would allow the military to weigh risks before being tasked to trim a certain amount from its budget. Rumsfeld did not provide any advice on where to cut, admitting at the outset of the meeting that he is out of date with the military's current spending priorities, said House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif.

Rumsfeld oversaw the Pentagon during a period of historic budget growth fueled by two wars and the desire to modernize the military’s aging equipment. But the military’s budget, considered off limits for cuts during the last decade, is now one of many targets for deficit reduction.

The Defense Department is in the middle of a review to determine how to trim the $350 billion officials have already been ordered to cut from the Pentagon budget over the next decade. The so-called Super Committee could opt to slash more from defense accounts as they work on a plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. If they fail, they will trigger an automatic $500 billion cut to the Pentagon budget.

Rumsfeld met today with an audience of like-minded Republican lawmakers, many of whom have spoken out publicly against further defense cuts. But some of his comments underscored statements made recently by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a former Democratic congressman from California who served as President Clinton’s budget director and, later, as his chief of staff.

The two men’s politics may differ, but they are in agreement on one thing: Mandatory spending like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is the primary cause for the country’s fiscal woes. 

“Pay attention to the two-thirds of the federal budget that is in large measure responsible for the size of the debt that we’re dealing with,” Panetta told reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon last month.

Rumsfeld echoed those remarks after his meeting on the Hill, stressing that there has been significant growth in spending on entitlement programs. The Defense Department’s base budget, not including the wars, has roughly doubled over the last 10 years, but defense hawks argue that its share of the overall federal budget is decreasing.

“The thing that worries me most is that people talk about the defense budget as though that’s where the deficits and the debt have incurred,” Rumsfeld said. “You could wipe out the entire defense budget and not solve the debt problem.”

LIKE THIS STORY? Sign up for Early Bird

Sign up for our daily newsletter and stay on top of defense coverage.

Sign up form for Early Bird
Job Board
Search Jobs
Professional Development Program Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Farmington Hills, MI
Biomedical Service Internship Position
American Society of Civil Engineers | Flint, MI
Deputy Director of Transit Operations
American Society of Civil Engineers | San Jose, CA
Structural Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | New Haven, CT
Transportation Planner
American Society of Civil Engineers | Salinas, CA
Assessment and Remediation Team Lead
American Society of Civil Engineers | Regina, SK
Quality Systems Manager
American Society of Civil Engineers | Greensboro, NC
Quality Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Attica, IN
Senior Water Resource Project Manager
American Society of Civil Engineers | Fairfax, VA
Civil Engineering
American Society of Civil Engineers | Steamboat Springs, CO
Entry Level Geotechnical Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Albany, NY
Sales Engineer-Process Automation/Instrumentation
American Society of Civil Engineers
Senior Project Manager- Transportation
American Society of Civil Engineers | San Antonio, TX
Materials Engineer 2
American Society of Civil Engineers | IL
Land Surveyor
American Society of Civil Engineers
comments powered by Disqus