Yes, the 115th Congressional session has been a disaster for the Republican majority. Obamacare repeal was a failure, tax reform has is not done, and anything meaningful came from executive orders. No organization has taken Congress to task for its shortcomings more than Americans for Limited Government, but when Congress does something right, half of Congress at least, it must be acknowledged.
The House of Representatives did their job; now it is up to the Senate. In mid-September, the House passed H.R. 3354, which includes all twelve individual appropriation bills, totaling $1.1 trillion in discretionary spending. The current continuing resolution expires in mid-December, and if the Senate can tear themselves away from wasting committee time to find no collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia, they have a chance to boost national security.
The Department of Defense (DoD) is getting the lion’s share of the discretionary budget pie. The bill provides $658 billion for the DoD, and another $73.9 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), think Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. This is a far cry from the Obama years, in which the military saw a continually shrinking budget, while the world was becoming more dangerous.
In 2015, the Navy increased its battle force requirement to 308 ships. During the campaign, President Trump touted his plan to rebuild the U.S. Navy, and take it past that requirement to the 350-ship mark. The last time the Navy had such a fleet was in 1998. Currently, the navy has 279 ships in the fleet, leaving the fleet 29 ships short of the 308 required and 71 short of what the President wants. Regardless of which number is the right amount, the current fleet is dangerously low, and the House budget begins the process of rebuilding the navy.
Many will ask, “Do we need such a large navy?”. In a word, Yes.
It is the U.S. Navy that patrols the world’s strategic choke points. It is the guided missile destroyers, equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, being used to protect the U.S. and its allies from ballistic missiles. It is the U.S. Navy interdicting weapons transfers between rogue regimes.
The legislation will use submarines and ships to fulfill those missions by providing $21.5 billion to procure 11 Navy ships, including funding for one carrier replacement, two DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, and three Littoral Combat Ships.
The legislation also begins to repair the readiness hole in the military. Since the beginning of the Obama administration in 2008, military readiness has been in a constant freefall. Eighty percent of Marine Corps aviation units lacked the minimum number of aircraft ready for training. Only one-third of the Army’s brigade combat teams are in an acceptable state of readiness.
These are just a few examples of the damage the Obama administration did to military readiness. The House budget attempts to rectify the situation by approving $192 billion for operations and maintenance, $24.1 billion above FY 2017. The military has had a serious of high profile accidents involving all branches of service that resulted in deaths. Congress and the military have all but blamed the incidents on lack of training and readiness, and the extra $24 billion will go a long way in preventing deaths.
The House budget starts the turnaround of the DoD, but change must also come from within the Pentagon. The Pentagon should be audited to ensure funds are spent appropriately. There must also be a cultural change in the Pentagon, and the military must be reminded it is an organization built to defend and kill.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis has taken the initial steps by ordering a review of the mandatory training requirements that do not directly support core tasks. The review will eliminate unnecessary, costly training that distracts the warfighter from his or her primary mission, fighting wars.
However, this should only be the first step for Mattis. The next step for the Secretary should be to cancel the biofuels program. The Great Green Fleet is a waste of time and money. $26.6 per gallon for fuel containing chicken fat is outrageous, but $424 per gallon algae-based fuel takes the cake. There’s nothing economic or smart about paying exponentially more for fuel when you have an abundance of it.
While Americans for Limited Government is against many of the programs being funded in the budget, “limited government” does not mean “no government,” and the military is one of government programs the federal government should support. That does not mean it is ok for the military to become a money wasting bastion of PC culture. It is now up to the Senate to continue what the House started and adequately fund the military while continuing to force Pentagon to get back to the basics: warfighting.