Stopgap spending measures passed over the past eight years have made it difficult for the military to do its job, and another continuing resolution for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017 would devastate the nation’s fighting force, according to the area’s congressman.
Closer to home, it could affect whether the familiar sounds of T-38C Talons screeching across the sky or the powerful hum of T-6A Texan II are heard in late June.
U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, said he stands with leaders from the Air Force, Army, Navy and and will not support another continuing resolution that limits the military’s funding at the previous year’s level. The federal government has until April 28 to have a budget to the president and signed into law before funding runs out for the military.
Funding for military construction and the Veteran’s Administration have already been passed and signed into law.
Continuing resolutions, or CRs, have funded the military for all or parts of the past eight years, while the Budget Control Act also played a part in five of those years.
“I’ve said that I’m definitely not voting for a CR because that does too much damage,” Thornberry said, adding that he might agree to a week or two CR to add a little more time for Congress to get something done. “But, once you start kicking the can down the road and not stepping up to the responsibilities to fund the military, you do more damage. Maybe it’s just a week’s more damage, but it’s still damage.”
Thornberry said Congress has had months to work on the defense appropriations bill, and now it’s time to pass it and get it signed into law. The U.S. House in March passed a $578 billion defense appropriation bill, which has been sent to the Senate. But, the Senate has been tied up with cabinet and U.S. Supreme Court nominees, which has slowed progress in that chamber.
The congressman said Wednesday’s testimony by the service chiefs on the state of the military branches, their capabilities and challenges they face if a CR is passed “was the most candid and direct testimony” he has seen since he has been a member of the committee.
Army Gen. Mark Milley said, “Failure to pass the budget, in my view as an American citizen and the chief of staff of the United States Army, constitutes professional malpractice.” He later said, in response to California Democrat Rep. Susan Davis suggestion that the “new normal” might be CRs, “The world is a dangerous place and becoming more dangerous every day. Pass the budget.”
Air Force Gen. David Goldfein said his service still has not recovered from sharp cuts in defense funding during the 2013 sequestration round. He said the Air Force will be forced to stop flying when funding runs out.
Air Force Public Affairs, on af.mil, reported Wednesday that pilot training would be impacted in July, thousands of family moves would be affected, retention bonuses would be delayed and morale would suffer.
“As a service chief, I have many obligations, but one remains paramount,” Goldfein said. “Every Airman we send into harm’s way must be properly organized, trained, equipped and led to succeed in their mission, and we must take care of their families while they’re gone. This is our moral obligation. A yearlong CR makes meeting this obligation extremely difficult.”
Thornberry said Sheppard Air Force Base, which is home to the internationally manned and operated Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, is somewhat protected because of its responsibilities to its NATO partners through the Alliance’s treaties and requirement to train partner nations’ pilots. But, they will still be affected because part of the program’s funding comes from the Air Force.
Another CR could also slow down the process of the Air Force’s push to replace the T-38, which has been in service since the 1950s.
The legislative chambers still have not worked on a $30 billion defense budget supplement that President Donald Trump requested for FY 2017.
“It’s additional money that he has asked for to get a head start of fixing planes and ships and so forth,” Thornberry said. “No action has been taken on that yet. My hope is once the Senate gets over their Supreme Court logjam that they will pass the (defense appropriations) bill that we passed and then add the supplemental on top of it so that it’s basically one bill that we’ve got to ratify and get going to the president.”
The congressman said the pending appropriations legislation would not prevent the Trump administration from responding to what the president called a “heinous” act when Syrian civilians were the target of an apparent gas attack. Short-term action could be covered through a mechanism called the Overseas Contingency Operation funds, but something would have to be done to balance that out.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Follow John Ingle on Twitter at @inglejohn1973.
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