As Congress returns for what could be its final few days in full session before the November elections, members are looking at a long list of must-dos. This includes funding and authorizing the federal budget.
What we now expect though is yet another six month “CR”. That is, a Continuing Resolution based on the previous Congressional authorization, with maybe a few minor tweaks. This all leading up to the “possible” fiscal-cliff and question in Jan 2013.
To many in DC political circles, this CR not only seems a good idea, but they can also say “job done”, and move on to other issues. But those entrusted with our national defense and foreign policy, this is not a job-done and definitely not a good idea.
The Departments of Defense, State, USAID and our clandestine services need longer-term financial stability. Carrying on without certainty of budget and strategic direction ultimately puts our national security at risk.
The US Congress needs to roll up its sleeves and do the job our founders intended. For too long Congress has been punting decisions and agreeing to weak compromises at the last minute, blind to the instability and harm they have been doing to our economy and national security.
The effects on the private sector are huge. We know it take many years to develop and deploy complex technology, weapons and programs. For these to be successful, effective, and guarantee best bang for the buck, the government “customer” must be consistent in requirements and financing.
This abdication of responsibility not only leads to cost overruns and time frame slippage—it puts many jobs on the line.
Not only does a CR process create financial instability, but merely replicating previous budgets worsens the problem and shows that Congress is not responsibly examining the hard choices that face our national security.
The world is rapidly changing—those that wish to do harm to the United States have adapted their strategies, and we must do the same to tackle our challenges. If America holds on to inflexible strategies, weapons and paradigms of the past, it risks suffering the terrible consequences of falling behind in this incredibly competitive world.
By merely repeating the past, continuing resolutions also block the strategic changes we must make to fully meet our modern and future defense goals.
And the CR is linked with mandated sequestration targets set in the 2011 Budget Control Act.
This Act, agreed to by both parties, both Houses, Congress and the White House, establishes a blanket cut that will include over $400 billion from the DOD budget over the next ten years.
Most agree that the defense budget needs rationalizing and reprioritizing. But the blanket cuts of the sequestration processes is not the way to go about it.
As a nation, we need to take a deep, hard look at our whole national security budget and strategy.
For far too long, over 10 years now, we have been using the 20th Century paradigm of national security. The first decades of that century saw epic struggles and loss of life as we discovered that 19th Century solutions no longer applied.
Today we are faced with a similar situation. Many of the weapons and programs of the 20th Century are no longer suited for our 21st Century needs.
Things like our huge nuclear stockpiles, cluster munitions and other 20th Century programs all need to be examined carefully in determining our true needs. This will allow America to better apply its limited financial resources to the programs and tools that better secure our nation at lesser cost.
We must also fully invest in completing the highly advanced F-35 to replace our combat-worn and aging fleet of fighters; further develop UAV and drone technology; and improve new missile defense technologies. These military investments must be made alongside strategically linked development, democracy promotion and trade agreements, reducing the need to put the men and women of our armed services at risk.
None of these vital actions can be taken through a CR or sequestration process.
Unfortunately, it’s clear that no action will be taken by Congress before November. Yet as soon as they return to their desks after the election, the American people should demand this strategic and open review take place.