For months, Congress has been debating how to deal with the economic questions surrounding an increase in our debt limit. At a time when foreign nations own nearly $4.5 trillion of our $14.2 trillion debt – proposed cuts in the recently passed deal could have serious implications for our national security. That’s why I was concerned that national security funding would be subject to an initial $175 billion cut in the final version of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that has been passed by Congress and signed by the President.
Throughout this debate I have advocated for our government to cut current spending and cap it at a responsible level so that we may balance our budget. We must remember though that in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the founding fathers empowered Congress to: "Provide for the common Defense… To raise and support Armies … (and) To provide and maintain a Navy." Fulfilling that obligation and meeting our budgetary responsibilities are not mutually exclusive. As a nation we should be able to provide for our defense and balance our budget. One should not come at the expense of the other.
This is a critical moment for both our nation and our armed forces. We have servicemembers deployed overseas in support of a number of military and humanitarian operations including Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Those operations over the past 10 years have taken a toll on our forces. Currently, the Army needs $25 billion to reset its force right now, while the Marines need $12 billion. Our men and women in uniform are not only being asked to make further sacrifices with additional deployments, but in some cases they’re relying on equipment which is often older than they are. For example, Navy ships and light attack vehicles, on average, were built 20 years ago. In addition the Air Force is relying on bombers averaging 34 years in age and is refueling aircraft with tankers that are nearly 50 years old.
An additional point of concern is that further cuts to defense are being used as a bargaining chip in a yet to be named Congressional “super-committee.” Twelve members of Congress from the House and Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, are required to find an additional $1.8 trillion in cuts. If the committee deadlocks on an agreement, or fails to complete its work by November 23rd of this year – then $281 billion in additional defense cuts automatically take effect. These cuts are unspecified and are an arbitrary number chosen to pressure the “super-committee” members into crafting an inadequate deal in fear of these cuts being enacted. I voted against this bill because I could not support a process which circumvents the normal legislative process and gambles with our national security.
Our military remains strong and morale among servicemembers remains high, but we cannot continue to operate with a strained force or we will not be able to meet the obligations of the future. In fact, the Vice-Chiefs of Staff of each of our braches of the military echoed this same sentiment at a hearing before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness. General Philip Breedlove, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force stated that some components of the Air Force “are right at the ragged edge.” Furthermore, additional proposed cuts of $281 billon in the bill would result in a "fundamental restructure of what it is our nation expects from our Air Force."
Our national defense has always been a bipartisan issue in the halls of Congress. Members from both sides of the aisle recognize the role our military plays in both protecting this nation, and advancing the goals of our foreign policy. Subjecting this integral piece of our government to cuts, without thorough debate in committee and on the House floor, sets a dangerous precedent.