The Most Important Subcommittee
On Thursday the Subcomittee on Defense Appropriations of the House Committee on Appropriations will meet for a hearing at which Secretary of Defense Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dempsey will testify. (A second closed oversight hearing follows Friday.)
Here is the background on the Department of Defense spending caps for 2014 and 2015. These “caps” are destructive of our nation’s defenses and dangerous for the country.
They are also largely illusory, as Todd Harrison explains in this excellent op-ed for The Hill from today. The budget for DOD is essentially in chaos, and this is terribly damaging on the ability of the Pentagon to plan and prepare. Unlike every other part of the federal budget, the Pentagon’s budget truly does need to have long-range spending plans locked down and priorities and weapons systems selected and funded, and not weapons acquisition systems, but also for career military personnel who have to develop skills sets over the 20+ years of their service that equip them to be the leaders of the nation’s military in the 2030s and beyond. One example of the complexity of the budgeting issue: The Navy has 18 Ohio class submarines, 14 of which carry ballistic missiles, 4 of which have been converted to carry a variety of weapons systems including cruise missiles, and these have to be refurbished or replaced over a 15 year time frame. This force becomes more and more important as does our carrier fleet as the People’s republic of China surges out a blue water Navy, as does our fleet of submarines. The Marine Corps –funded either at 175,000 or 182,000 depending on which page of the budget you look at– also needs a clear horizon and if the Army is being slashed, the USMC must at least be maintained at its levels of recent years to provide an expeditionary force
Not since the nadir of the Carter years has military spending fallen into such confusion and uncertainty. The Subcommittee has to begin the process of turning that around by sending a serious budget to the full Committee and the Committee forwarding it on to the House. The caps have to be set aside and the focus put back on the Congress’ first job of protecting the United States. If the events in Ukraine have had any good effect, it will be the light shed on the fact that the world isn’t the way President Obama has long asserted it was. There will be more terrible surprises ahead –from Iran, the PRC, the Norks. The Congress needs to do its job even if the president won’t. Send him a Department of Defense appropriations bill that is serious about national defense, and make 2014 a referendum not just on Obamacare but also on president’s radical plans for the nation’s military.