Our work towards a stronger military

We have too many too many planes that can’t fly, too many ships that can’t sail, and too many Soldiers who cannot deploy, while too many threats are gathering.

After years of cuts under the Obama administration, our military was left in a state of disrepair.

There is a human toll to this self-imposed readiness crisis. More of our service members die in training accidents than in combat.

When we rolled out our Better Way to Keep America Safe and Free agenda two years ago, these were the types of tragedies we wanted to prevent by rebuilding our military.

With new investments in training, equipment, and personnel, we have begun to reverse the damage of the last decade and reassert the dominance of the American military. For more on that, visit Better.gop.

Our work continues, and here’s what House Republicans are saying about that effort:

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)

“This week and next, Mr. Speaker, we will be spending time on this floor discussing the devastating impacts nine
consecutive continuing resolutions have had on our military’s readiness and on our ability to deter and defend against our adversaries.

“Despite the fact that this House has consistently, and normally in a bipartisan fashion, completed our work on time, we have repeatedly seen partisan politics, particularly in the Senate, prevent the Congress from delivering a funding bill to the President’s desk on time. In fact, since Republicans took control of the House in 2011, the House has never failed to pass a Defense Appropriations bill on time.

“Just a few weeks ago, we passed H.R. 6157, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2019, with an overwhelmingly bipartisan 359–49 vote. Today’s resolution, Mr. Speaker, expresses the sense of this House that failing to provide full, on-time, stable funding increases the risk to our servicemembers and aids our adversaries. The resolution expresses our commitment to ending the funding uncertainty our military faces and urges the Senate to similarly complete its work so we can provide the on-time funding our armed services require.

“We know, Mr. Speaker, that not every Member of this body is on one of the defense-related committees, but we also know that every Member of this body is committed to the security of our nation. I take the opportunity today, along with my colleagues, to lay out in detail the threats we face and the impacts our actions in this House can have on our military’s ability to keep us safe. Reflecting on the challenges facing our Armed Forces, Secretary Mattis put it this way: ‘As hard as the last 16 years have been on our military, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending cuts, worsened by us operating 9 out of the last 10 years under continuing resolutions.’ Secretary Mattis went on to explain the consequences of Congress’ failure to provide reliable, on-time, sufficient funding: ‘Ships will not receive the required maintenance to put to sea; the ships already at sea will be extended outside of port; aircraft will remain on the ground, their pilots not at the sharpest edge; and eventually ammunition, training, and manpower will not be sufficient to deter war.’ Not sufficient to defer war, Mr. Speaker.

“No experience, Mr. Speaker, has had a greater impact on me during my time as a Member of this body than having the Secretary of Defense testify in front of us as members of the Armed Services Committee and say that congressional abrogation of our constitutional duty to fund our military is putting our service members at greater risk. While our military has suffered under this burden of continuing resolutions and dangerous policies of our previous administration, our adversaries have been making steady gains. Never before in recent history have we seen the gap between our capabilities and those of our adversaries widen at such a breathtaking pace—and not in our favor.”

“In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read something that the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, said before the House Armed Services Committee last year in a hearing about the damage of continuing resolutions: ‘I have a hard time believing,’ he said, ‘that I am sitting before you now to discuss the potential that we might take steps to make our sailors’ missions more difficult, to give our adversaries more advantage. . . . ‘ Think about that, Mr. Speaker. That is what this debate is about. That is what this resolution is about. Insufficient, unreliable funding gives our adversaries an advantage. We must not be part of that any longer. We must resolve to get our work done on time, in the House and in the Senate, and to fulfill our constitutional obligation. We must, in this Congress, Mr. Speaker, be worthy of the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make for us every day. Mr. Speaker, I urge the adoption of this resolution, and I reserve the balance of my time.”

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL)

“As many of us have stood on this floor and said, We have planes that can’t fly, ships that can’t sail, and troops that can’t deploy. Under the Obama administration, we saw an alarming trend where we allowed our Armed Forces to be hollowed out, and we allowed a critical readiness crisis to develop. Over the last two years, members of the House Armed Services Committee and others have fought tirelessly to ensure our military gets the level of funding they need, not only to fix our current readiness crisis but also to build up our force to a size to match the current threat environment, which is the most complex one we have faced since World War II.

“While I am proud of the work we have done so far to raise the top line Defense number, there is another critical piece to the puzzle. Continuing resolutions are just as detrimental to our national security as the Budget Control Act caps. Every day we don’t pass the Defense Appropriations bill, we are denying resources to our servicemembers and making it harder for them to do their job. Continuing resolutions and budgetary uncertainty also end up costing the taxpayers more money.

“The Secretary of the Navy has said that the Department of Navy alone wasted $4 billion since 2011 because of continuing resolutions. That is $4 billion of real money that could have been used to fund more ships, more planes, or more maintenance. Under a continuing resolution, the Department of Defense and the services are not allowed to enter into any new contracts. Every year we have delayed the timelines of scheduled maintenance availabilities and procurement schedules. All of these things are crucial to maintain deployment rotation and ensure the U.S. presence is felt around the world.

“Compare this to your personal finances. For half the year you are able only to pay your current expenses, like car payments and utilities. You know you will get money later in the year for new things you want to buy or invest in; however, you don’t know how much you will get or whether you will get it. Does that sound frustrating and ineffective? We have the world’s greatest military. Yet, we are hamstringing them with an irresponsible funding cycle. Let me put this in very blunt terms. The inability of Congress to pass government funding bills on time has endangered the health, safety, and lives of our servicemembers. Just look at the aviation accidents and recent collisions of Navy ships.

“These incidents can be blamed, at least in part, on the readiness crisis. As Members of Congress, we have a responsibility here. We are not the ones on the front lines and deployed around the world, but we play an integral role: getting those servicemembers their funding on time. In a time where we face great power competition with Russia and China, radical Islamic extremism in the Middle East, and Iran and North Korea, there is no shortage of national security priorities. Here, in the House, we have passed our Defense funding bill on time yet again, but we need our colleagues in the Senate to follow suit.”

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA)

“Mr. Speaker, I begin by thanking the gentlewoman from Wyoming for all of her efforts, as well as all of my colleagues for their continued effort to do everything possible to assure the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act and the Defense Appropriations bill prior to the end of the fiscal year. That is key. We have heard testimony about how money is wasted and uncertainty has led us to where we are today. Without that, we must do everything we can to assure passage of both of those bills.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H. Res. 998, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States Navy’s total readiness remains in a perilous state due to high operational demands, increased deployment lengths, shortened training periods, and deferred maintenance all while the Navy is asked to do more with less as financial support for critical areas waned in the era of sequestration and without consistent congressional funding. We have heard that laid out. We agree on both sides that this has created the uncertainty that creates the situation we found ourselves in today.

“I think it is important to define what the term ‘Navy total readiness’ truly means. The Navy conducted an independent Strategic Readiness Review composed of retired Navy admirals, as well as current senior civilian executives in the aftermath of the tragic USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain collisions. This Strategic Readiness Review identified institutional deficiencies that have developed over a long period of time resulting in a weaker Navy.

“Factors that contribute to total Navy readiness include: the total number of assets—we know them as ships— manning and training, that is, in particular, personnel, in how well they perform their jobs; equipping and maintaining, that means providing sailors gear and maintaining ships; command and control, which means establishing clear lines of leadership and funding; and operations, which is the tempo at which our men and women in uniform execute their missions. If one or all of these total readiness factors are lacking, the Navy will suffer. Unfortunately, that is the situation we find ourselves in today. But we didn’t arrive here by accident.

“I believe we have a tendency to respond to the crisis of the day rather than prepare for long-term strategic problems with corresponding solutions. Make no mistake about it, our adversaries are looking in the long term. Don’t think for a moment that China isn’t watching what we are doing and planning for where they will be not next week, not next month, not next year, but 10 years down the road, 20 years down the road, or a century down the road. The same with Russia, North Korea, and Iran. We need to do the same.

“After the Cold War and the Reagan administration came to an end, our Navy rapidly decreased in size. In the next few decades, funding levels became smaller and smaller. Tough cuts were made. The surface warfare community decreased their level of training, weakening the skills of their officers and reducing their capacity to effectively and safely perform their jobs as ship drivers and warfighters. Ships retired without replacements. Then, a nationwide financial crisis brought upon a shortsighted decision for sequestration, further crippling the Navy’s ability to take care of itself. Meanwhile, threats to the United States and operational tempo have not decreased.

“This created a situation where the Navy was overworked with too few resources. But our men and women in uniform never complain and never say they can’t accomplish their mission. They have the kind of resolve in doing the things this Nation asks them to do that this Congress should have in our commitment to providing them the resources necessary for them to continue the great job that we ask of them. But at a certain point, we all know we can’t continue to operate this way. Things begin to break down when they aren’t given the resources necessary. When their ships aren’t properly maintained, when training doesn’t take place at scheduled intervals to make sure they maintain that expertise that we need of them, sailors get stressed. When there are simply too many jobs to do and not enough time for people to do them, mistakes happen, costly mistakes. We won’t be able to reverse this trend immediately, but we can continue to make targeted, strategic investments in assets, training, and manpower to improve the Navy’s readiness.

“I am proud of the work that Congress has done in recent years, in particular, this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. The House-passed NDAA adds a total of 13 battle force ships to the Navy’s inventory, makes critical investments in ship maintenance accounts to take care of the ships we already have, and takes strong action in regard to surface warfare officer training and command and control structures within the Navy.

“In consultation with our Senate counterparts, I am confident that we will deliver a bill that supports the Navy’s rebuilding efforts and the drive and the objective of a 355-ship Navy. We cannot be complacent. Yes, we have the best Navy in the world, but we can be better. Our sailors and marines are the best on the face of the Earth, and they do a spectacular job, folks.

“But until they can walk on water, which someday they may be able to do, until they can walk on water, then we must continue to build them ships. It is imperative that this Congress supports the United States Navy financially and authoritatively in a manner that allows for reassuring our allies, maintaining global presence, and defeating adversaries when necessary. We must give our sailors and our marines the tools they need to succeed in an atmosphere and an environment that is even more challenging than it has ever been in the era of great power competition where we know that our allies are committing to not just countering the United States, but defeating the United States strategically. We must do nothing less than fully support our Navy-Marine Corps team, giving them what they need not just for today, not just for next year, not just for within our purview of what this Congress has to do, but for years to come, for decades to come, and for centuries to come. For it is only with that, that we will be able to counter what our adversaries are doing every second of every day, and that is finding ways to defeat the United States strategically. We must do nothing less than the same.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI)

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H. Res. 994, which would recognize the significant readiness challenges facing the United States Marine Corps, and warn that budgetary uncertainty is undermining the ability of our Marines to do their vital work day in and day out in defense of this Nation. Since fiscal year 2010, the Active Duty Marine Corps has shrunk by 8 percent. Thanks to the work of this House, that figure is finally trending in the other direction, but there is still much more work to be done, all of which requires stable, robust, and ontime funding.

“Seven years after the Budget Control Act we are still digging out from holes we dug ourselves. In hearing after hearing, we have heard military leaders make clear that they will face increased risk due to continuing resolutions and years of accumulated defense cuts. It can be all too easy to wave off these warnings. After all, our military and Marine Corps, in particular, has a ‘‘can-do spirit’’ that is second to none. But increased risk isn’t just an abstract notion. It can have very real consequences.

“The more than 60 Marines who have perished in marine aviation accidents since 2011 are a tragic reminder of what increased risk looks like in practice. The new national security and national defense strategies marked sea changes in American security policy. With the new guidance that great power competition, and not terrorism, is the primary challenge to American national security policy. There is still much work to be done to ensure that the Marine Corps, along with the rest of the military, is best positioned to compete for the long-term. From contested entry to dispersed operations from austere locations to contingency response, the Marine Corps is facing great challenges and opportunities. The obstacles are many as increasingly capable adversaries are forcing the Marine Corps to reconsider long-held assumptions about amphibious landings and its ability to operate close to shore.

“In the face of these challenges, the Corps will have to do what it does best, innovate, and come up with new solutions to execute timeless missions. Ultimately, however, I am optimistic; not just because I was privileged to serve 7 years in the Marine Corps, and I know the quality of the men and women who continue to serve, but because of many other factors, including the simple geography of the Indo-Pacific, which is tailor-made for the United States Marine Corps. As former adversaries learned on the islands of Guadalcanal, New Guinea, and Tarawa, the absolute last place on Earth you want to be is between a Marine and his objective. In the long run however, the only thing that can stop the Marine Corps is this body’s failure to do its job. If we fail to provide on-time, adequate, or predictable funding, we will undermine our Marine Corps’ ability to get the job done. This resolution takes a small step to recognize these challenges and commit to doing better. We owe our beloved Marine Corps nothing less.”