Former national security adviser to President Reagan, Robert “Bud” McFarlane, said that military budget cuts are to blame for the security lapses at the Navy reserve base where five troops were recently murdered.
Military funding is currently being debated in Congress. At the same time, a US general announced the US military is spread far too thin around the world. General Ray Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, explained that cuts to the size of the military were made several years ago, bringing the number of troops down to 490,000 from 570,000. At that time the Pentagon didn’t anticipate conflict in Europe or the situation in Iraq and Syria.
Odierno is of the opinion the volatility in eastern Europe and the battle against ISIS are both long-term problems that may take 10 to 20 years to resolve–which is far longer than had been projected. Without some relief, either budgetary or from the breadth of commitments, the Army may not be able to sustain the pace, Odierno cautioned. “At some point we’re going to have to say what we’re not going to do because we’re not going to be able to do everything we’re being asked to do right now,” he said.
As it is, the Pentagon is trying to absorb approximately $1 trillion in projected cuts to spending over a decade. The reductions were ordered as part of the Budget Control Act, which was passed in 2011. The defense budget’s fate now lies in the hands of congressional Republicans—and President Obama. Last week, Obama visited the Pentagon to meet with military advisers. Reportedly, strategy for defeating ISIS and the defense budget were discussed.
The battle between the GOP and the White House will likely intensify as October 1, the start of the new fiscal year, draws closer. Obama has proposed breaking federal spending caps on both defense and non-defense programs, but Republicans want increases solely for defense. Not surprisingly, Obama threatened to veto any bill that increases defense spending without corresponding increases in non-defense spending. Oddly enough, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has come out publicly in support of budget cuts to his own department.
A veto of either the defense authorization bill or the defense appropriations bill would negatively impact the troops. The Daily Signal reports:
“The president has also vowed to veto the defense appropriations bill—currently placed on hold by Senate Democrats. The appropriations bill is what actually provides the money to execute the policies established in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). And this is where President Obama’s promise that service members will get their paychecks becomes shaky.
Under law, if no new appropriations bill (or temporary appropriation like a continuing resolution) is signed into law by Oct. 1, the Defense Department would go into a partial shutdown. Military forces would be expected to continue to work and protect our nation, but they would receive no paychecks until a defense appropriations bill is signed into law.”
And, according to The Washington Times:
“The presidential veto threat comes over the way lawmakers fund the bill by adding $38 billion to a war chest to get around having to raise sequestration caps imposed by the Budget Control Act. President Obama and some congressional Democrats have said they will not support a defense bill that spares the military from sequestration cuts, set to kick back into effect in fiscal 2016, while keeping the caps in place for domestic spending.”
Sufficient funding for agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, State Department and FBI helps the military keep the country safe, but “the actual funding happens in the appropriations bill,” Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, points out.
A major concern, should the defense policy bill be vetoed, is that without a new bill on the books, troops will only receive wages through Sept. 30 of this year. Sen. John McCain has a plan which he believes will bring resolution. “We need new ideas. We must champion the cause of defense reform,” he said. McCain argues that sequestration must be repealed because it is preventing military personnel from performing at optimum capacity.
McCain continued, imploringly: “My friends, we can’t abide by a system that puts the men and women who are serving this nation at a greater risk.” The bill, opposed by President Obama, would authorize boosting the defense budget by adding money to a war fund that is not subject to sequestration.
The majority of the disagreements, however, are not over reductions in defense spending. The White House is opposed to some amendments, including those that would decrease federal spending. “This disagreement is about the non-defense part of the bill,” Todd Harrison said. “This is not about the defense budget. The fight is about non-defense.”
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