By Larry Shaughnessy
The Republican congressman who chairs the House Budget Committee questioned Thursday whether top military officers truly support the Pentagon budget, which includes significant cuts to some programs.
The officers were testifying about the budget on Capitol Hill.
"We don't think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don't think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget," said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. "What we get from the Pentagon is a budget-driven strategy not a strategy-driven budget."
It is a violation of military regulations to lie to Congress. But Ryan said that generals, when pressed, admit that their budget testimony is tainted.
"I think there is a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon budget which is not really a true, honest and accurate budget," he said. "When you confront military experts - retired or active - they concede these things to us."
The Pentagon disputed the chairman's claims.
"The Secretary of Defense has been very clear with the military leadership in this department that they should provide independent military advice and be as straightforward as possible with members of Congress," said Pentagon spokesman George Little. "That is a solemn obligation. We value Congress's oversight role and the secretary expects honest, straightforward input from our military leadership and he believes that's precisely what they do on a military basis time and time and time again."
The dispute comes as Congress tries to find a way to trim the huge federal budget before larger automatic cuts, called sequestration, kick in.
Rep. Bill Young, R-Florida, is chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. He would not agree that the generals are not truthful, but he does believe the White House tries to shape their testimony.
"I agree that the administration is having a large effect on the testimony that's being presented to Congress," he said.