WASHINGTON -- The House's bid to buy new executive jets on the Pentagon's budget has broadened a conflict between Congress and the administration
over defense priorities.
"It forces us to take money from things we do need to fund and redirect it for things we don't need," Geoff Morrell, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Robert Gates
, said Friday. "And in a time of war, we just can't afford that."
Lawmakers' move to upgrade the fleet
of government jets -- used for travel by lawmakers and other senior government officials -- is just one of more than 1,000 spending projects lawmakers added to the Pentagon's budget for next year that weren't requested by President Barack Obama
Some lawmakers say they often know more about what the military needs than the executive branch
"The Pentagon is not the fountain of all knowledge," said Rep. Bill Young, a Florida Republican who was senior appropriator on the House floor last month when the Pentagon spending bill was approved. "They don't have all of the knowledge, and they don't have all of the wisdom. Neither does the administration, neither does the Congress. That's why we work together."
The dispute over the jets is one element of a struggle between powerful members of Congress and the Obama administration
over how to trim the federal budget in the face of ballooning deficits.
Lawmakers set aside $485 million toward reviving a terminated Lockheed Martin Corp. contract to build new presidential helicopters
, and added $674 million for three new C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes
from Boeing Co.
The House's plan to spend $550 million to buy eight business-class passenger jets to ferry senior government and military officials around the globe represents more than double Mr. Obama's request for $220 million to buy a total of four passenger jets, including two that are currently being leased by the Air Force.
The fight will continue
when Congress returns from its recess. The administration persuaded lawmakers to kill plans to build more F-22 fighter jets. But a veto threat
hangs over any added funding for the F-35's second engine, as well as for further money for new White House helicopters.