Two years ago, House Republicans rolled out our Better Way to Keep Us Safe and Free agenda to address the challenges facing our country regarding national security and foreign policy.
After years of neglect, our Armed Forces were overstretched and depleted, creating a military readiness crisis that has cost service member lives.
Since then, Republicans have taken action on a historic effort to rebuild our military, fix the VA, and take on rogue regimes around the world. 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.
More work is needed, and House Republicans highlight the ways we can ensure that our country remains a force for good around the world:
Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA):
“Madam Speaker, the regular use, as you have heard, of continuing resolutions impacts commanders at all levels. You have heard about more training deaths than combat deaths. I have to tell you at the service and major command levels, commanders are not allowed to start new programs, increase rates of production, or begin new military construction projects. As you move to lower echelons of command, it forces leaders into making risk determinations related to readiness and training.
“Consider, Madam Speaker, Oceana Naval Base….which resides in my district, if it were a country, it would be the seventh largest airforce in the world. The Air Force Combat Command is also in my district. Flying hours for many of these units have been far below the needed hours for units prepping for combat deployments. As you heard, many of the aircraft are grounded because of maintenance and not being able to get to parts. It has taken years and will take years to recover. We are certainly not there yet.
“Air National Guardsmen who volunteer at the beginning of the year are only able to have orders cut for the duration of the continuing resolution if it happens. This sometimes reduces the level of their benefits, such as their basic housing allowance. They are eligible to receive less than that because the orders get broken into separate pieces. This really affects the ones at the lower rank, the enlisted, like what I was, those who may have military families. Again, hurting our military families which is the strong basis of structure for a strong force.
“Let me give you another example. While returning from a deployment, approximately 90 airmen had unanticipated changes in their itinerary which caused additional expenses to be incurred. Since these expenses were not authorized prior to the new fiscal year, these members were not reimbursed for more than 60 days after their return. Some of the unpaid expenses ranged from just a few dollars to $7,000 for one young airman. Imagine, Madam Speaker, if you are a young airman, E–3, E–4, and you have a family, $7,000 is a lot of money. It could be the difference between paying the mortgage and keeping the lights on back home, contributing to the stress of our military families. In the weekend of January 20, 2018, there was a scheduled training weekend. The expiration of the continuing resolution caused a last-minute cancelation of an event impacting 950 airmen. 50 of the airmen who traveled out of Langley Air Force base, also in my district, before the order was given to cancel were immediately sent home without accomplishing any training events. They may never be able to get that training back as they prepare to go to combat for this nation.
“There are some other negative impacts that we don’t hear about often. The Virginia National Guard is second contributing to the war effort amongst other guard units around the country. The Reserve components make up 47 percent of our nation’s operational forces, yet they are required to cease operations during a continuing resolution while Active Duty counterparts continue training.”
“I have the great honor of representing the district with more military and veterans than any congressional district in the nation. If there is anything going on in the world, if Mother Freedom needs to be defended anywhere in the world, then our men and women are there on the front-lines fighting for family, for friends, and for freedom. We in Congress and the Senate owe them better, and we have to do better. We have to get our acts together. We have to lead with the courage and the spirit that they have. We can make it happen, and we should push and push until we got it done.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA):
“I would like to bring up one point that really struck me, because of the Budget Control Act and the continuing resolutions. The former Speaker of the House, when we passed this nine years ago, looked us in the eye and said: This will never pass. It is too horrible. This will never happen. It is too horrible for the military. It hurts it too badly. That is what the former Speaker of the House said. When he looked the Armed Services Committee in the eye and told them that, a lot of the Members proceeded to vote ‘yes’ on the Budget Control Act, and that put us where we are now.
“Let me tell you where the Budget Control Act has put us. In 2017, you had about 80 servicemembers die in training. That doesn’t include drunk driving or falling off a cliff. But in training in the United States, all four branches of service, you had more than 80 service members die last year just training. You had 21 servicemembers die in combat. So you had 21 service people die in combat zones where they are getting shot at and fighting the enemy, and more than 80 people died back here at home just training.
“The Budget Control Act and the continuing resolutions that we have been doing have literally made it safer to go to war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Philippines. Name your place, it is safer than training here at home. It is safer than getting in a C–130 and flying here at home. It is safer to do it overseas. That is a sad state for our American military, and it is a sad state of affairs for this Congress…The Senate needs to work on this. We are going to pass it. We are going to get a clean bill back from them. It would be fantastic to be able to move forward and get out of these continuing resolutions and stay out of them. Once we started this, again, it took nine years to get to where we are now, where we are finally getting out of it with the deals that this Speaker has made and with what this Senate has done.”
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO):
“Madam Speaker, I thank Congressman Taylor for hosting this very important, special event tonight. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have heard too many testimonies after testimonies talking about the dangerously low level of our military’s readiness. Years of budget cuts, coupled with continuing resolutions, have prevented and delayed the modernization of our airplanes, ships, and basic equipment, while at the same time reducing the readiness of our troops around the globe.
“Here is the stunning and sobering reality: Today, we have the smallest Army since before World War II, the smallest Navy since before World War I, and the smallest Air Force we have ever had. Only 50 percent of our Nation’s fighter and bomber forces are able to fly, fight, and decisively win a highly contested fight, much like our forces would encounter with China and Russia. Get this: Less than half of the Navy’s aircraft can fly due to maintenance and spare parts issues. Think about that. Less than half of the Navy’s aircraft can fly due to maintenance and spare parts issues.
“Budget cuts and increased operations have depleted America’s supply of precision ammunitions. Simply put, we are running out of bombs. Two Navy destroyers were involved in collisions that will take years to repair, resulting in the tragic deaths of 17 sailors—17 sailors of the 80…soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in training accidents last year. We lost 17 in this accident dealing with the two Navy destroyers. I saw the impact of this accident personally in September when I toured the USS Fitzgerald as part of an Armed Services fact-finding mission. I stood in the room where seven sailors died when their ship collided with a commercial freighter a little after 1 in the morning, tearing a huge hole in the side of the ship and flooding their room where they were sleeping with water in a little under two minutes, giving them very little time to escape. It was heart-wrenching to see, and it was heartbreaking to think about the pain that the families will feel for years to come.
“Sadly, these accidents were not due to an enemy attack. They were due to training lapses and poor leadership, which was exacerbated by high demand of services, combined with lack of funding for needed ships and lack of training caused by defense cuts and sequestration. In some cases, we found out sailors are working 100 hours a week just to keep up with the training requirements and the current operations. Our men and women in uniform deserve better.
“We cannot expect our sons and daughters to volunteer for the military only for them to be placed in harm’s way without the proper equipment or adequate training to ensure they return home to us safely. Congress must work to fix this problem. The 2-year budget agreement passed earlier this year increased the defense spending caps to allow our Nation’s military to begin the rebuilding process. Congress took action for fiscal year 2018 by investing in critical military programs, such as increased funding for Navy ship and aircraft depot maintenance, providing an additional 24 F/A–18 Super Hornets to address the Navy’s strike fighter shortage, and increased Active Duty end-strength for all the service branches. However, our work is far from over.
“It is vital that we pass on-time appropriations for fiscal year 2019. Our military cannot adequately restore readiness without on-time appropriations. It is our responsibility as Members of Congress to ensure that the Department of Defense receives appropriations for fiscal year 2019 by this October 1. The House has already passed our version of the Defense Appropriations bill, and I hope our colleagues in the Senate will act swiftly to ensure the Department of Defense is funded on time. We need their help to make this happen, and we owe it to our sailors and our servicemen everywhere. Time is running out. We have an opportunity to get this right, and I urge the Senate to act swiftly and quickly.”
Rep. Jack Bergman
“…CRs, continuing resolutions, seriously inhibit and in some cases, prevent long-term planning, training, and readiness. We have a term that you will hear now used by the military on a daily basis: We have to be ready to fight tonight. That is not tonight next week. That is not tonight next month. That is right now and around the globe.
“When you have a mission like the U.S. military does to protect not only our citizens here but those citizens in countries of our coalition partners around the world, we have to be able to fight tonight, and we have to be able to fight as a coalition force around the world. When you are not ready, you are not a good partner. Continuing resolutions consume time, they consume resources, and they increase the overall cost of warfighting. DOD’s mission is to protect all of our citizens by successfully executing operational war plans. These operational plans change over time due to evolving threats.
“Continuing resolutions prevent DOD from maintaining momentum in keeping ahead of those changing threats. Warfighting is not like a sports team where you can go 18 and 1 for the season and still claim victory. That 1 has to always be in the zero column for our military. Training and readiness go hand in hand. The readiness comes in two forms: personnel readiness and equipment readiness. When you think about the time it takes to train a young soldier, sailor, airman, marine or coast guardsman, that can’t be done overnight. Long-term planning goes into that individual training. That individual training morphs into unit training so that individual part of a unit is ready to go and defend our nation’s interests at home and abroad.
“Equipment readiness is a challenge, because when you cannot plan long term for your buys of parts, whether they be for aircraft, ships, tanks, whatever it happens to be, again, your cost goes up. We have the responsibility as the Congress to give our Department of Defense and the Secretary of Defense the tools they need to keep our country safe. Continuing resolutions seriously hinder our capability to complete that mission. I strongly urge the Senate to act swiftly and come to the realization that a continuing resolution is not an answer going forward for the safety and security of our country, all of its citizens, our families, and our coalition partners who rely on us when times get in dire straits.
“So, Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak with you tonight, and I just want to end with one real-time, real-life anecdote. Forty-six years ago yesterday, July 11, 1972, we saw the evidence of a successful evolving threat in Vietnam when the worst, most devastating helicopter shoot-down of the entire Vietnam war occurred. Sixty-two people perished in one CH–53 helicopter in the northern I Corps. We had not had the capability to adjust our tactics because the SA–7 missile had been introduced. That is how quickly life can change on the battlefield. We as the Congress need to do everything possible to ensure that that doesn’t happen to our nation’s warriors.”