In January, the country watched as a minority of lawmakers in the Senate sent our government into a shutdown, cutting off funding to our military and scores of federal employees supporting the Department of Defense, and jeopardizing a six-year re-authorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
In the midst of all of this, one of the biggest issues in Washington remains: Short-term spending measures create unnecessary chaos and conflict and are a detriment to our country, specifically to our military and national defense. The lack of on-time, full-year budgets jeopardizes the readiness of our military forces, delays critical modernization efforts, and erodes the trust of industry partners.
The fact of the matter is, many of the Democrats — and even some Republicans — who senselessly held hostage the daily operations of the U.S. government and our military, voted overwhelmingly in December to green-light the exact programs they then refused to fully fund in January. Those programs included missions like maintenance of our aging Air Force fleet, increasing the number of our troops, strengthening missile defense, addressing combat pilot readiness, providing a pay raise for our troops, and improving support for our military families, to name just a few.
A select few here in Congress held the military hostage to other priorities and endangered the security of the American people and those who keep them safe. The military cannot properly organize, train, and equip under the constraints of short-term spending bills, nor should we ask them to.
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Every day, our men and women in uniform are fighting ISIS. Every day, they are on the DMZ facing North Korea. They are training and maintaining aircraft at Robins Air Force Base and Moody Air Force Base in Georgia’s 8th District and at other military installations across Georgia and around the country. They are preparing themselves mentally and physically for the fights of today and those that may come tomorrow.
On Thursday, the House passed — for the fourth time this Congress — a bill to fully fund our nation's National Defense Authorization Act. After a disappointing filibuster in the Senate that led to a short government shutdown, Congress was able to pass the Bipartisan Budget Act and secure a two year spending deal to keep our planes flying, ships sailing, and men and women in uniform protected.
During a House Armed Service Committee hearing on Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reiterated the point, “…no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps, worsened by operating in 10 of the last 11 years under continuing resolutions of varied and unpredictable duration.”
The bipartisan budget deal establishes the much-needed stability the Department of Defense requires to address current readiness issues, modernize the force to accomplish the new National Defense Strategy, and secures the faith of the men and women who have volunteered to stand in harm’s way to secure our freedoms. The two year deal on defense spending is a step in the right direction to over-turn the devastating cuts which have loomed over our military for years.
While Congress’s passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act is a signal to our troops that we remain committed to them, Congress must return to legislating and appropriating in the normal fashion and give our troops the money they so vitally need to secure our nation.
Rep. Austin Scott represents Georgia’s 8th Congressional District, home to Moody and Robins Air Force bases, and is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.