WASHINGTON — Rep. Lee Terry on Tuesday touted his proposal to blunt the need for additional furloughs of civilian defense employees, while critics said his plan could hurt U.S. efforts to get out of Afghanistan.
Terry has offered an amendment to a defense spending bill that would cut $2.6 billion to train and equip Afghan security forces and increase by $1 billion other Pentagon accounts that could be used to offset furloughs.
The difference in those figures has to do with multiyear budgeting and government accounting rules.
His proposal was expected to receive a vote today.
Terry, an Omaha Republican, cited reports of wasteful spending in Afghanistan, from a shiny new headquarters that is likely to go unused to new helicopters that Afghan special forces are not able to fly at this point.
He pointed to one report that the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction has uncovered nearly $2 billion of questionable spending there just in the past three months.
“This is basically the type of slush fund to be used for special projects that — accusations have been made — are simply lining the pockets of some Afghani officials,” he said on the House floor.
Terry said that instead of being wasted in Afghanistan, that money can be used to protect employees in the United States from the furloughs that have resulted from the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.
He noted that more than $5 billion would remain in the Afghan security fund.
But others said chopping funds intended to build up Afghan security forces would be shortsighted.
While expressing a desire to avoid more furloughs, Pentagon officials view the funds Terry is targeting as critical to the United States’ ability to achieve its goals in Afghanistan and turn the security lead over to Afghan forces.
They continue to press Congress for broader legislation that addresses sequestration.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, acknowledged that money has been misspent in Afghanistan.
Levin told The World-Herald that Terry’s proposal would be a “mistake” because it could make it tougher to get U.S. troops out of there and back home.
“There was a lot of wasted spending in Afghanistan, but that’s not the issue here,” Levin said. “The issue here is whether or not we help our mission succeed and get our troops home faster by supporting the Afghan security forces.”