(CNN) – House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said Sunday he misspoke earlier in the week when he accused military officials of not being honest about the Pentagon budget.
“I really misspoke,” Ryan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I didn’t mean to make that kind of an impression. So, I was clumsy in how I was describing the point I was trying to make.”
On Thursday, the Wisconsin congressman said senior military leaders had been misleading when they defended a decrease in Pentagon spending proposals. He argued that the generals were not “giving us their true advice” and accused them of toeing an administration line.
"I think there is a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the (administration's) Pentagon budget, which is not really a true, honest and accurate budget. When you confront military experts - retired or active - they concede these things to us," Ryan said.
His comments came after he unveiled his plan for the 2013 budget, which was passed by the Republican-controlled House on Thursday. The GOP proposal protects defense spending by replacing a $55 billion scheduled cut in the Pentagon budget with cuts elsewhere in the federal government.
Republicans have long argued against the previously arranged Pentagon cuts, reached in a deal between Congress and the White House in August, and praised Ryan’s budget for undoing the reductions.
However, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded to Ryan’s remarks in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, saying “there’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus ... calling us, collectively, liars.”
Dempsey stood by his testimony before Congress earlier this year in which he said the Pentagon’s budget was based on a “strategy-driven” process.
On Sunday, Ryan told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that he called Dempsey to apologize and clarify his comments.
“What I was attempting to say is, President Obama put out his budget number for the Pentagon first, $500 billion cut, and then they began the strategy review to conform the budget to meet that number,” Ryan said. “We think it should have been the other way around.”
On the same program Sunday morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also commented on the stir surrounding Ryan’s remarks.
“I think we have to take the generals' word as they give it to us,” he said. “We're going to move in the direction of making sure that America still is No. 1 in the world in defense, and the defense sequester, which I suspect Congressman Ryan was referring to, is something that many of us are looking at as something that could put us in a position to no longer be No. 1.”
– CNN’s Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.
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