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As troops scour museums for spare parts, Republicans hit Obama on military readiness

A former Republican congressman is hammering the readiness crisis facing the military this week as the Senate begins to consider a proposal to boost spending on the other side of Capitol Hill.

Mike Rogers, the former Michigan lawmaker and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, repeated the GOP talking point that troops are ripping parts off museum aircraft to keep current planes flying during a radio segment on Monday.

"Another group of folks flocking to museums, and one you might not think of, the United States Marines. According to the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry, Marine aviation squadrons are salvaging aircraft parts from museums in order to keep planes flying," Rogers said.

"The problem is military readiness accounts have been stretched thin and they haven't been replenished. For years Peter has been robbed to pay Paul ... the result is that only 60 percent of Marine Corps planes are ready to fly at a moment's notice," he continued.

It was reported in March that an F/A-18 at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina needed a part that was no longer made. An officer visiting the USS Yorktown museum in Charleston saw an F/A-18 of the same model on the flight deck and brought the part back to Beaufort, where it did not work.

"We often discuss readiness, but that is a vague term without concrete meaning for many people. Recently, I have heard firsthand from service members who have looked me in the eye and told of trying to cannibalize parts from a museum aircraft in order to get current aircraft ready to fly the overseas mission assigned," Thornberry said in a March hearing.

It's not just Marines. House Speaker Paul Ryan's office put out a release late last month saying that Air Force pilots were stripping parts of museum planes to put on B-1 bombers to allow them to steer properly on the ground.

"This is not what museums are for," the release said.

The House-passed fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act uses about $18 billion from the overseas contingency operations account to deal with base priority needs that Republicans say are not addressed in the president's budget request. Lawmakers say these funds will go primarily to restore readiness that has been degraded over the past 15 years of war.

The Senate bill, which is being considered by the full chamber this week, funds base priorities at the president's requested level, but Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has introduced an amendment that would boost funding by almost $18 billion.

Lawmakers have said that the fiscal 2017 bill moving through Congress is the time to stop the cuts and begin rebuilding.

"Military budget cuts are beginning to hit the bone. Kind of like the bones you'd find at, I don't know, say, a museum," Rogers said.