Nearly a full month into the new fiscal year, the Department of Defense continues to operate without an approved budget, limiting the Pentagon’s ability to manage contracts, and hindering maintenance and training initiatives needed to save lives.
The longer the continuing resolution replaces a budget, the more damaging it is to DoD,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White told reporters on Thursday. “We hope the Congress can pass an FY18 budget before Dec. 8, when the continuing resolution ends,” she added.
Four high-profile incidents involved American warships within the past twelve months served to highlight the combination of high operational tempo and the Navy’s failure to schedule and execute necessary training for its sailors; the result of which served not only to embarrass the nation on the global stage, but cost the lives of American sailors.
The Marine Corps was also forced to engage in a “24-hour operational pause” earlier this year, and multiple incidents involving Marine Corps aircraft demanded a similarly critical look at how operations such as planning, maintenance, and training were being conducted. Like the Navy, the Marine Corps’ crashes drew concern and criticism from other nations’ governments, with Japanese officials going so far as to request a halt to Osprey flights over their nation, despite having ordered a fleet of Ospreys themselves. Unfortunately, like the Navy, these tragic incidents also resulted in the loss of American service member’s lives.
In a rare situation where the media and politicians appeared to see eye-to-eye, it seemed clear that nearly two decades of combat and support operations with limited time for training and a maintenance budget that’s been shrinking (when there even is one) have resulted in a massive military force that is increasingly incapable of meeting its obligations in a safe manner. The U.S. military may be the largest and most powerful in the world, but without the means to maintain it, it will slowly wither away – this isn’t a contested statement within the defense community, as officials have been calling on lawmakers to provide more (and more importantly) consistent funding to America’s defensive infrastructure for months.
“For all the heartache caused by the loss of our troops during these wars, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of our military than sequestration,” Mattis told lawmakers back in June.
General Joseph Dunford, in a separate hearing that same month, echoed those sentiments to lawmakers, saying that “profound consequences for the military” would continue to surface “if the spending trajectory doesn’t change.”
President Trump and Senator John McCain, who have made no secret about failing to see eye to eye about a number of issues, have both made a number of statements indicating that an increase in defense spending is necessary to usher in a new era of readiness for the increasingly worn-down U.S. military. Budget proposals with sweeping administrative changes and spending hikes intended to offset the backlog of maintenance and training issues plaguing the military have gone to vote and been passed with bipartisan support in both Congress and the Senate…
And yet, as the first month of the 2018 fiscal year comes to a close, the entire U.S. military is, once again, still operating under Continuing Resolution protocols, with no budget, no idea of what their 2018 budget will ultimately be (once the two, very different, proposals are hemmed into one), and no public statements offering a reasonable explanation as to why.
The U.S. military is expected to continue combat operations for the foreseeable future in multiple theaters, and while the American public has recently turned its attention to venues like Africa, the military has long been aware that the War on Terror has always been a global one. Americans will continue to fight and die in service to their nation, even as the politicians within that nation fail to prioritize the funding requirements for those life or death operations.
The Republican party likes to tout its support for the military, and the Democratic party often trades on the inherent empathy of their ideology, and even despite the two groups seeming to agree that the military needs to be funded behind closed doors, all of them have failed to do the one thing they can do to actually help ensure the lives of those in uniform: pass a budget.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Army