Getting the Defense Topline Right

Getting the Defense Topline Right
U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt
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It is imperative that we fund our nation’s armed services at the right level to keep America safe. The Budget Control Act (BCA), which by default caps defense spending, was enacted in 2011. The results speak for themselves: lack of readiness, aging equipment, and less than adequate force structure to meet global demands. Altogether, these results paint a bleak picture of the rapid decline of our nation’s ability to project power.  During testimony to Congress this past summer, General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made this clear when he stated that the United States “will lose the ability to project power in 5 years if Congress doesn’t act.”

The key to passing the 2011 BCA was to stand up a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to take a hard look at our auto-pilot spending programs. That Committee was to come back to Congress with a long-term solution to our debt and deficit problem. The problem is that Committee never produced a recommended course of action and no long-term solution was ever developed, leaving us with the budget caps from the 2011 BCA in place, which today is still the law of the land.

We must end the defense sequester and stop the practice of passing Continuing Resolutions. In a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Armed Services Committee, Secretary Mattis identified the 2011 BCA as his biggest concern to our national security. I, along with 141 of my colleagues, noted in a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan earlier this year that there is wide support from House members to end sequestration to “fully fund national defense… We must afford our President the ability to restore military readiness and provide him with the necessary tools to protect our interest at home and abroad.” Most recently, I joined Chairman Mac Thornberry, to applaud President Trump’s remarks last month at the United Nations, where he endorsed a $700 billion defense spending bill.

For the last 16 years, we have leaned heavily on our military to fight terrorism abroad without providing the appropriate funding; it is now time to recapitalize that force both in equipment and readiness. A $700 billion defense spending bill does just that. A $700 billion provides our military the full funding they need for this upcoming fiscal year to include many items on the services’ Unfunded Requirements List. Not only are we able to provide the services with the proper funding for them to continue to execute their missions, but it also allows us to begin to tackling long-term strategic goals, such as authorizing an additional five surface ships, authorizing the construction of three Virginia-class submarines a year, and authorizing the construction of more Ford-class aircraft carriers — helping us reach the strategic goal of a 355-ship Navy much sooner. It would also help rapidly recapitalize and modernize the Air Force’s aging bomber, air refueling tanker, and tactical airlift fleets.

It is time to stop holding what is in the best interest of our national defense hostage—  the time is now, not next year or the year after that, to end the sequester. Congress must start making hard decisions about our spending and the national budget, but not at the expense of making sound investments for our national security. Ultimately, a sound strategy that we can plan for will be more cost-effective in the long run. For too long we have allowed the budget to drive our military strategy; instead, we need to have our strategy drive the budget.


Congressman Rob Wittman represents the 1st District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he is the Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.



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