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McKeon wants defense budget free of 'social agenda' items

By Charley Keyes and Adam Levine, CNN
  • Current chairman Rep. Ike Skelton, a Democrat, was voted out of office
  • A top priority will be to provide resources and funding for U.S. troops, McKeon says
  • The military needs to plan for the threats of tomorrow, the lawmaker says

Washington (CNN) -- The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee says he wants a bigger defense budget that's not "weighed down" by social agenda items, an apparent swipe at the president's efforts to end the ban on openly gay troops serving in the military and a warning to Democratic senators who might try to push it through before relinquishing power to Republicans next year.

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of California is expected to take over the reins of the powerful military oversight committee, which saw its top Democrats voted out of office Tuesday night, including current chairman Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri.

In a statement released Wednesday, McKeon said the top priority for Republicans on the committee will be to provide resources and support for U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the globe.

He said he wants to make sure that American forces "have the equipment, resources, authorities, training, and time they need to successfully complete their missions and return home."

In a challenge to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' efforts to curb spending and some big weapons programs that he felt were overly concerned with unrealized threats that are decades away, McKeon said a priority must be placed not just on current dangers but the "threats of tomorrow."

'Don't ask, don't tell' stays on books

"One percent real growth in the base defense budget over the next five years is a net reduction for modernization efforts which are critical to protecting our nation's homeland," McKeon said in the statement.

He also said Republicans want a defense budget free of social issues, presumably a reference to repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which the House already voted to support as part of the 2010 defense authorization. The Senate tried to include it as part of a similar vote but were unable to gain enough votes to see it through.

"Republicans on both sides of the Capitol are committed to passing a National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 that is not weighed down by the current majority's social agenda items," the statement said.