November 18, 2022

The Sequester is Hurting our Readiness

Since March 1 of this year our country has been living under “sequestration.” These across-the-board, nonsensical budget cuts are harming our military, hurting our ability to maintain international supremacy in scientific research, and cutting necessary investments in childhood education and nutrition. It is time they ended. The cuts aren’t mission-driven and they put our national security at risk.

In San Diego, which I represent, the military presence defines our city’s culture and ethos. My Congressional district is home to seven military installations, including the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Further, military contracting companies, employing tens of thousands of San Diegans, are a central industry in the region. Sequester cuts hurt all of them.

In a recent economic impact study by the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC), the sequester and constant stop and start of multiple continuing resolutions has “resulted in a disruptive and unpredictable budget cycle for the Department of Defense (DoD), and introduced great uncertainty into DoD spending in the San Diego region.” That hurts not only the military but local support businesses and military families who deserve as much stability and forethought as we can provide to them.

Given the changing global security and economic focus toward the Pacific Rim, San Diego is exactly where the military should be making long-term investments in our national security infrastructure. As a hub for innovative technology companies that are on the front line of unmanned warfare systems and a shipbuilding hub constructing the next generation of vessels for our increasingly mobile military, San Diego should be seeing increased attention, not spending levels that barely keep up with inflation.

There are nearly 140,000 active duty, civilian, and reserve personnel in San Diego. For civilian contractors, who saw six furlough days this year, sequester means a 2.5% cut to their annual salary. For base commanders, sequester forces them to spend time deciding if they should delay projects, cancel contracts, or leave staff positions unfilled. This allows them less time to focus on the strategic planning necessary to keep America safe.

With the continuously changing international security situation, it is the responsibility of Congress to do our very best to protect the American people by giving military leaders the tools they need. Sequester undercuts that promise. It is time to end it and achieve a reasonable budget solution.

Scott Peters represents the 52nd District of California. He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Protecting Our Military and Veterans from a Government Shutdown

In just a few days the current fiscal year ends and unless the Senate passes a continuing resolution to keep the government open, we will face a government shutdown. If the Senate takes up and passes the House-approved bill, a shutdown would be avoided and our military and veterans would continue to receive their pay and services as they should. Unfortunately that scenario is far from certain.

With so many variables in the days ahead, my focus right now is ensuring pay continues for our military men and women and that veterans programs continue in the event that we do face a government shutdown. Their paychecks should never be in question while Congress and the President debate on how to fund the government.

That’s why I introduced the Pay Our Veterans and Seniors First Act. I want to take proactive steps now to ensure our troops, veterans, and seniors are secured from a shutdown’s impact. The bill ensures troop pay while cutting off pay to Congress and the President for the duration of the shutdown.

Under current federal law, Members of Congress, the President, Vice President and heads of Executive Agencies and Departments will continue to receive pay even if government funding bills are not passed by the September 30th deadline and the government is shut down. The fact that Congress and the President are paid during a shutdown even though members of the military are not is completely backwards and unacceptable.

In my family the military ethics of honor, integrity and commitment to our nation are ethics to live by. As a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, my father instilled those values early on in my eleven siblings and myself. They are values to be always respected – as our service men and women protect us, we must do whatever we can to protect them.

Our troops are the same men and women risking their lives day in and day out for our country. They continue serving the country – often times thousands of miles away from their families for months or years at a time – with or without a government shutdown. At the very least, we must ensure they receive timely paychecks. Our military men and women should never go a single day having to wonder if they will be paid in full or on time.

Obviously our hope is that the Senate acts and a shutdown is avoided, but we need to be prepared and have protections in place for our military and veterans. Working through our government’s financial hurdles should not come at the expense of our troops. Just like everyday Americans, Congress and the government have jobs to do. Our message is a simple one: lawmakers must complete one of their primary responsibilities or forfeit pay.

With the clock ticking, inaction is not fair to our troops, veterans, seniors, and countless American workers who would be impacted by a shutdown. I will continue to fight to make Pay Our Veterans and Seniors First Act law and encourage other Members of Congress to join me in standing with our men and women in uniform to protect their pay while they protect us. They deserve nothing less.

Congressman Tom Reed, a Republican, represents the 23rd District of New York State in the United States House of Representatives.

Ensuring Pay for Our Military

Under current law, if a budget impasse prevents Congress and the White House from funding the government, and a government shutdown occurs, our men and women in uniform would not be assured of being paid. They would continue to perform their patriotic duties and, in many cases, put their lives on the line for our country. But their paychecks would be in limbo until Congress and the president could agree on how to fund the government.

This is unacceptable. The last thing our military families should worry about is not receiving their paychecks on time because Congress and the President have not been able to make the tough choices on the nation’s finances.

Last April, when we were facing the threat of a government shutdown, Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01) and I introduced the Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act. Our simple and straightforward legislation ensures that, in the event of a government shutdown over budget issues, our nation’s servicemen and women would continue to receive their pay on time and in full.

Immediately after introducing this bill, I was contacted by a military spouse. Her husband was on his tenth deployment in support of operations in the Middle East, while she remained at home raising their 1-year-old son. She had read the news about a possible government shutdown. In addition to her constant worry about her husband’s safety, she was very concerned about keeping up with family bills without her husband’s military paycheck.

This military spouse’s worries are shared by hundreds of thousands of military families across our country, many of whom have loved ones in harm’s way. Even the threat of an interruption of pay is stressful for military families that depend on timely paychecks to make ends meet.

At a time when our nation has 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and more than 45,000 in Iraq, it is unconscionable that we would ask our troops to serve on the front lines without being paid on time. From the state of Texas alone, there are more than 28,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have been deployed, second only to California in the highest number of deployed troops from one state.

These brave Americans are working long hours, often in hostile conditions and facing a vicious enemy. The most remarkable thing about these citizens is they all raised their right hands and volunteered to serve our country. It would be tremendously damaging for morale to tell our troops to go on long deployments, away from their families, and then not pay them.

This year’s budget battles in Washington, D.C. foreshadow years of recurring debate and tough choices in order to rein in runaway government spending. But putting our nation’s finances back in order should never come at the expense of military families’ financial security.

The Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act has overwhelming support: our bill has 80 cosponsors in the U.S. Senate and 201 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. Enacting this legislation should be the first order of business when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day. Delaying action until a government shutdown is again threatened would be shameful.

Our troops should never have a moment of worry about receiving timely paychecks. They are risking their lives, spending weeks, months and even years, away from their loved ones. The very least Congress and America can do is ensure that they are able to take care of their loved ones who are waiting for their safe return home.

See the video “Military Pay: ‘By the Numbers’” on Senator Hutchison’s YouTube channel.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Texas. Congressman Louie Gohmert, also a Republican, represents the first district of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Military Needs a Stronger Sexual Assault Policy

In June 2006, in order to conform to the mandate of the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act, the Office of the Secretary of Defense issued an instruction to the Pentagon’s Inspector General to develop a policy to oversee sexual assault investigations in the military. In a report issued last month, five years after this official instruction, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the DOD IG “has not performed these responsibilities.”

The GAO reports that the DOD IG “believes it has other, higher priorities.” Yet ensuring that our troops are able to serve in a safe environment must be a primary goal of our military leadership. Therefore, it is the height of irresponsibility for DOD not to have a strong policy to combat sexual assault in the military.

Sexual assault in the military disproportionately affects servicewomen. One in three women who serve in the military is a victim of sexual assault during her service. Sexual assault in the military is not a new problem now, nor was it a new problem in 2006. But as women join the military in greater numbers and take on increasingly central roles in U.S. operations, the issue has become more and more pressing.

In the five years since the Office of the Secretary of Defense ordered that the Pentagon develop a policy on sexual assault investigations, almost 15,000 active-duty servicemembers have reported being the victims of a sexual assault. The Department of Defense estimates that 80% of sexual assaults in the military go unreported, so the true number may be as high as 75,000. The problem has been compounded by the military justice system. In the past five years, only 8% of the reported cases have been prosecuted—meaning only 1.6% of the more likely number of cases that have actually occurred have led to a prosecution.

The Department of Defense has done little to address the problem of sexual assault within the ranks, enhance the safety of the women and men who serve, or bring the perpetrators to justice. In addition to reporting mechanisms and legal services, sexual assault survivors need access to support services and treatment. While DOD created the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) after the passage of the 2005 NDAA, Anuradha Bhagwati, Executive Director of the Servicewomen’s Action Network (SWAN), has criticized the military for understaffing and ignoring this “tiny” department, which, she notes, “is not even headed by a military officer.”

The GAO report also cites a number of more specific problems in the way the Department of Defense deals with the crime of sexual assault. As mandated in the 2005 NDAA, the DOD IG has two major responsibilities on this issue: developing a military-wide policy for investigating sexual assaults and monitoring the investigations undertaken by the services. According to the GAO report, the DOD IG has failed to perform either of these tasks.

Among the problems that result from this inaction at the level of the Secretary of Defense and his staff are the inconsistencies within and among services in the investigations of assaults. The GAO found that the Army, Navy, and Air Force had different policies and procedures in six out of nine areas related to sexual assault investigation, making it impossible to hold commanders to a clear, universal standard. The report further found “no evidence” that the DOD IG conducted oversight of any of the 2,594 investigations of alleged sexual assault reported in 2010. By not conducting oversight on these investigations, the Department of Defense has no way of knowing if the services are performing them well.

And reports of individual victims show that the services are not performing these investigations well. The low prosecution figures—8% compared to 40% in the civilian world—tell only part of the story. Ignoring survivors’ accounts, laughing them off, or even reporting them for lying or adultery can have devastating effects on servicemembers’ health and careers. Issuing “non-judicial punishments” (or no punishments at all) to perpetrators often forces survivors to continue working in the same office as their attackers, causing further psychological harm and opening the door to repeated assaults.

Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA) has introduced legislation that would enhance the legal rights and protections of servicemembers who have been victims of sexual assault. This legislation, known as the STRONG Act, would provide sexual assault survivors with access to a lawyer, ensure confidentiality with victim advocates, and grant base transfer requests. It would further require the creation of high-level positions at DOD and in all of the services to coordinate and oversee sexual assault investigations. As the recent GAO report demonstrates, there is an urgent need for the Department of Defense to live up to its obligations under existing legislation. Passage of the STRONG Act would underscore this need and would demonstrate that the country will not accept the continued mistreatment of our men and women in uniform.

West Point’s class of 2011 included 225 women, the highest number of female cadets in a single class since women were first allowed to attend the U.S. Military Academy in 1976. Current statistics suggest that 75 of these servicewomen will likely be victims of sexual assault during their time in the military. Those numbers are unacceptable, and the Secretary of Defense must do everything he can to protect those who serve from betrayal, assault, and abuse. He has no more important responsibility.

Changing Course in Afghanistan: It is Time to Bring Our Troops Home

The urgent case for the withdrawal of U.S. military troops and contractors from Afghanistan is simple and straightforward: a military solution in Afghanistan is neither feasible, affordable, or in the national security interest of the United States.

The war in Afghanistan has now become the longest war in America’s history, and the situation continues to go from bad to worse. Corruption continues unabated, including amongst the very private contractors to which scarce U.S. resources are flowing. The U.S. troop presence has increased from somewhere around 5,000 troops in 2002 to roughly 100,000 in 2011. At the same time, military and civilian casualties have increased at record rates. 2010 was the deadliest year in Afghanistan to date.

Perhaps most at odds with our national security interests, an imposing U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan has fueled the domestic insurgency and contributed to recruitment by transnational extremist elements which seek to characterize the United States as a foreign invader and occupier.

The American people are increasingly calling for a change in course in Afghanistan and an end to the continued loss of life and resources at the expense of vital domestic priorities such as quality education, affordable healthcare, and much-needed investments to create jobs and jump start the economy. Recent polling indicates that 72% of the American people, and a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, support congressional action to “speed up the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.”

Regardless of the situation in Afghanistan we have seen the Pentagon come back to us asking for more time, more troops, and more resources. Our troops have performed with incredible courage and commitment but they have been put in an impossible situation. The bottom line is we need to begin to end this war.

Military and foreign policy experts agree that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. Despite this reality, we have yet to see a clear plan for the diplomatic solution that is necessary to ensure long-term stability in Afghanistan and the surrounding region. After ten years of escalating troop levels and relying upon a costly, military-first strategy that has not worked, it is time to prioritize diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan which emphasize economic development, political reconciliation and inclusion, the engagement of regional and global stakeholders, and the safeguarding of basic human rights.

Lastly, White House and intelligence officials have acknowledged the threat of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is diminished and relatively small when compared to the number of members of al-Qaeda and affiliated groups in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. The modern threat of terrorism can emanate from the tribal regions of Yemen or a hotel room in Germany. It is not practicable, or in our economic and national security interest, to address this threat through a military-first, boots on the ground strategy.

That is why last month I introduced H.R. 780, otherwise known as The Responsible End the War in Afghanistan Act. This bill, which has been co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of more than 50 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, would limit funding in Afghanistan to the safe, orderly redeployment of all troops and military contractors and end funding for combat operations.

It is time to reorient U.S. foreign policy to reduce the threat of terrorism in a more effective and sustainable manner. That process begins with bringing the war in Afghanistan to a close.

Congressman Tom Rooney: Defund the JSF Alternate Engine

Last week, by a convincing 233-198 margin, the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment to end funding for the extra engine of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This vote was a critical step toward ending this wasteful program, which our military leaders have said repeatedly they do not want or need.

The amendment, which I sponsored, will save taxpayers $450 million this year alone and billions more in the years to come. After years of throwing good money after bad to fund the extra engine, I am glad the House has finally recognized that the extra engine is a luxury we simply cannot afford. This vote sent a message to the American people that Congress heard their call to eliminate wasteful spending and put an end to business as usual.

If you’re not familiar with this estimated $6 billion earmark, here’s the back story. In 2001, after a competitive bidding process, the Pentagon awarded a contract to build the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with the F135 engine. However, Congress continued to set aside billions of dollars for another contractor to build an alternate F136 engine. This was highly unusual, since of our 28 military aircraft, only one (the F-16) uses an alternate engine.

President George W. Bush tried to kill the program during his last two years in office, and President Barack Obama last year threatened to veto any legislation that included extra engine funding. Until last week, however, the House continued funding the wasteful program. As a result, taxpayers have already spent approximately $3 billion to develop the extra engine. The Pentagon estimates it will cost an additional $3 billion to complete development. All for an engine our military leaders say they don’t even want.

A defense dollar wasted is one we won’t have for vital equipment to keep our country safe. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have consistently said the extra engine not only wastes scarce dollars, it also complicates their missions.

As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “Spending more money on an extra engine simply makes no sense and diverts limited modernization funds from more pressing DoD priorities.” Funding the extra engine, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. David Heinz said, would “take 50 to 80 tails [Joint Strike Fighters] out of the program.”

The Joint Strike Fighter is a crucial link in the defense of freedom. But this particular program does nothing to aid its work. The extra engine will not make our country any safer, but it will take limited resources away from our troops.

I urge the Senate, as it takes up the House spending bill, to follow the House’s lead and end this wasteful program once and for all. If we can’t cut funding for the extra engine program, which is unwanted by our military leaders, how can we convince the American people that we are serious about getting our deficits under control?

Congressman Tom Rooney, a Republican, represents the 16th district of Florida.

Congressman Jim Moran: Keep Funding the JSF Alternate Engine

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is four years behind schedule and nearly $150 billion over budget. It comes as no surprise to many who have been following the F-35’s progress that the jet’s current engine, the F-135, faces similar challenges. In fact, the F-135 is now 50% more expensive than its 2001 cost estimate. Just this month it was reported the engine may require another $1 billion to complete.

Last week the House of Representatives approved legislation that would kill the development of one of the few cost control mechanisms remaining for this procurement: the F-136 engine. At the heart of the debate is whether or not Congress is willing to complete the upfront development costs of the F-136, which are estimated to be up to $950 million by the manufacturer. Even though the department has struggled to control the cost growth of this program, we are penny wise and pound foolish in refusing to invest in resources that are projected to save up to $20 billion dollars over the life of the fighter.

I agree with Secretary Gates on many issues, his judgment is usually spot on. But his position of the alternate engine is baffling given that analyses provided by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have each concluded that investing in competition within the F-35 engine program would be budget neutral and could even save money over the life of the program. Further, funding the F-136 offers non-financial benefits that the DoD enjoyed through competition in the F-16 fighter program. These include the following: improved engine performance, enhanced safety and operational readiness, increased contractor responsiveness and innovation, and a sustained industrial base for future aircraft programs.

Those who cite the F-136 as an “earmark” ignore the fact that development of a second engine for the F-35 was an integral part of the program of record, and was fully funded by the DoD until its fiscal year 2007 budget submission. Some also cite the F-136’s British lineage as an “outsourcing” of American jobs, while remaining silent on the fact that some components of the F-135 will be produced in Turkey and Poland. Finally, both the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act and the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review both highlight the importance of competition throughout the life of major weapons programs for all of the benefits I have mentioned.

Cutting unnecessary spending is responsible. I have embraced Secretary Gates’ efforts to reduce the rate of growth of the DoD budget through his efficiency initiatives. However, with regard to sustained competition in the F-35 program, I disagree strongly with efforts to block investment in the F-136.

Congressman Jim Moran, a Democrat, represents the 8th district of Virginia.