Washington: The House Armed Services Committee pressed ahead on Wednesday with a version of the 2013 US defence budget that adds billions to President Barack Obama`s proposed budget.
The committee convened to go through details of a spending blueprint that calls for a base defence budget of USD 554 billion, including nuclear weapons spending, plus USD 88 billion for the war in Afghanistan and related counter-terrorism efforts.
That compares with the administration`s proposed figures of USD 551 billion plus USD 88 billion.
Rep Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the committee, said the legislation represents a "modest" increase over the administration`s proposed budget. "This mark actively rebuilds the military within the constrained resources available to us," McKeon said.
The committee`s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith, said in an opening statement that he is pleased the bill includes new conditions on providing aid to Pakistan.
"It is imperative that Pakistan support our counter-terrorism efforts," he said.
Election-year manoeuvring over the size of the Pentagon budget is unfolding against a backdrop of worries by Republicans and Democrats alike that US defences will suffer if lawmakers cannot stave off more than USD 500 billion in mandatory military spending cuts scheduled to begin taking effect next year.
The military service chiefs, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen Martin Dempsey, have said publicly they support the Obama plan, but some Republicans have suggested the chiefs harbor secret misgivings.
The administration already is selectively cutting USD 487 billion from the Pentagon budget over 10 years, an approach it calls prudent in light of shrinking combat commitments abroad and concerns about budget deficits at home.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has stressed his concern about Congress failing to find a way around the USD 500 billion in mandatory automatic cuts to the defence budget over 10 years, starting in January, which he said would require a "meat-ax approach" to savings.
"We are convinced that it would result in hollowing-out the force and inflicting severe damage to our national defence," Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February.