American military power has not only kept our country safe and free, but also underwritten global prosperity and human freedom. As a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, restoring U.S. military preeminence was one of the reasons I ran for Congress.
In my short time in Congress, I have watched President Obama do some really audacious things – from unconstitutionally granting amnesty to illegal aliens to unilaterally changing Obamacare over 30 times. I never thought he would hold the military hostage to regulatory and social welfare programs. Yet, that is exactly what the President is threatening to do. House and Senate Republicans need to stand strong against this reckless bullying. Congress can get national security on the right track and force the Obama Administration to prioritize spending, rather than just spend more on everything.
Last week, the House passed the 2016 Defense Appropriations bill, which is necessary to pay our troops, buy and maintain weapons and equipment, provide training, and support military operations. The bill funds national defense at the exact same levels requested by President Obama’s own FY16 budget request (about $577 billion). We did what he asked.
However, the President has now threatened to veto because Congress will not increase so-called “non-defense discretionary” spending dollar-for-dollar. Senate Democrats are planning to filibuster every spending bill passed by the House. This is what folks in Washington call legislative “hostage taking.” In this case, President Obama and Senate Democrats have made hostages of our men and women in uniform and our national security. In their view, the military should be shut down unless Congress spends more on regulatory agencies and social welfare programs.
Putting the military in this situation is always bad, but is particularly reprehensible given the devastating cuts already imposed on national security. Even before he signed the Budget Control Act (BCA), the Obama Administration mandated $487 billion in cuts to national defense accounts. Combined with BCA-mandated caps and sequestration, the Obama Administration will have presided over a cut of $1 trillion from the military over 10 years. Defense accounts for less than 20% of federal spending, but has taken 50% of the BCA cuts. The military has taken far more than its fair share of cuts. Left unchecked, sequestration will continue to slash active duty and reserve component ground forces. We are headed to our smallest Navy since before World War I and our most antiquated Air Force ever.
Obama’s unwillingness to lift BCA caps and sequestration for defense has induced a readiness and modernization crisis in our armed forces. “Readiness” means the ability of forces to accomplish assigned missions. “Modernization” means replacing old equipment and buying the most advanced weapons to ensure our troops maintain advantage.
What does it all mean? Shortchanging readiness and modernization means that our troops will go into the next fight underprepared and using older equipment. They will get there more slowly and in smaller numbers. Victory will take longer and become more expensive – most importantly, more expensive in terms of life and limb of our troops.
Is now really the best time to threaten the defense budget? The Islamic State sits 70 miles from Baghdad. ISIS has expanded beyond Syria and Iraq into the Levant and North Africa. Iranian-backed militants largely control five Arab capitals. Vladimir Putin’s Russia ripped off a chunk off Ukraine and is threatening a nuclear war on… Denmark! China is claiming the South China Sea. North Korea continues to develop longer range and more sophisticated nuclear weapons. In each case, ensuring stability and deterring war requires American engagement, backed by credible military force. If we don’t project power, then instability and war become more likely, not less. We have fully expended the “post-Cold War Dividend.”
Congress’s core constitutional responsibility is to provide for the common defense. National security is simply more important and a higher priority than funding the IRS, the EPA, and the National Endowment for the Arts. As the majority party in both chambers, Congressional Republicans need to make this case to the American people rather than fall for the President’s hostage-taking trap. Standing up to the President is the first step in restoring American military greatness.