Sen. John McCain assailed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for what he called a “massive failure” by U.S. military intelligence in the days leading up to the Russian seizure of Crimea.
“I don’t get into the specifics in an open hearing,” Hagel responded.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday, McCain accused Obama administration officials of a “total misreading of the intentions of (Russian President) Vladimir Putin."
Hagel explained that “early last week we were well aware of the threats” posed by Russian troops to Ukraine and that he’d met with NATO officials and Ukrainian defense officials last week to discuss that threat. “This wasn’t sudden or new,” he told McCain.
The $496 billion Fiscal Year 2015 defense budget which Hagel is submitting to Congress is unchanged from the funding level in 2013 and 2014, and is more than $30 billion below the Pentagon funding in 2012, according to committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D- Mich.
The Arizona Republican sardonically told Hagel “your timing is exquisite” in submitting to Congress a scaled-down defense budget request “at a time when the world is probably more unsettled than it has been since the end of World War II,” with the invasion of Crimea, the collapse of Syrian peace talks, “China more and more aggressive,” North Korea test-firing missiles “and the list goes on.”
McCain noted that China has just announced a 12.2 increase in its military budget.
But Hagel repeatedly told the committee that he had to work within the limits which Congress itself set in the 2011 Budget Control Act and this year’s bipartisan budget accord.
First published March 5 2014, 8:29 AM
Tom Curry is a National Affairs writer for NBCNews.com. He began reporting on politics and public policy for NBCNews.com in June 1996, when the site was msnbc.com.
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Before joining msnbc.com, Curry worked as a reporter/researcher for Time magazine where he reported on politics, business, social trends, and golf.
Curry reports to Politics Editor Vaughn Ververs.
He was awarded a Freedom Forum Foundation Journalism Fellowship in Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii in 1993 and a Hoover Institution Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University in 2011.
He lives in Washington D.C.