Chesterton Tribune



Visclosky uneasy over Defense Department budget bill

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U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, spoke to the House on Wednesday on the Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Appropriations Act.

Excerpts from his statement:

“(T)he House bills exceed the cap on Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 defense spending, established under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), by $72.5 billion. If enacted as written, and the BCA caps remain in place, the Department of Defense (DoD) would face a sequester of roughly 13 percent. The Department has still not recovered from the rash of problems caused by the last time it was forced to deal with sequestration in 2013. In the second half of FY 2013 the Department savaged its Operations and Maintenance accounts to continue ongoing contingency operations and to protect Military Personnel accounts. This resulted in the Navy idling an aircraft carrier at a pier in Norfolk, the Army canceling training rotations, the Air Force reducing flight times for its combat aircraft, and widespread civilian furloughs. We simply cannot allow that to happen again in FY 2018.

“We have avoided sequestration in the last four fiscal years by adjusting the BCA caps for both defense and nondefense appropriations. Those modest adjustments, done in a bipartisan and bicameral fashion, provided needed funding for our military, but also for our country’s economic and physical infrastructure, scientific research, public health system, and veterans care. If past is prologue, after this bill passes the House, it will sit idle until mid-September, when we begin the tortured process of short-term continuing resolutions, shutdown brinksmanship, possibly an increase in the BCA caps, and then, maybe an Omnibus.

“Besides my frustration with the process, I have concerns with the significant increase in funding that this bill would provide to DoD: $60 billion more than FY 2017 and $29 billion more than requested. I support providing additional funding to the Department, as I believe we are asking too much of our brave service members and their families. Also, to put it mildly, the world is a very unsettled place and not trending towards stability. That being said, I believe that the Department will have difficulty spending so many additional dollars in a timely, efficient, and transparent manner. Vacancies in important leadership positions, hiring restrictions on civilian employees, and a handful of ongoing strategic reviews will all slow the decision making process. Finally, it is unlikely that Congress will complete its work in a timely manner and that any dollars provided will have to be spent in a compressed period of time.

“To further my transparency concerns, I am not convinced the current Administration evaluates dollars being spent on the military with the same criteria as it does the rest of the federal government. In the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Major Savings and Reform document for FY 2018--a page-turner with 150 proposals to allegedly save billions in discretionary programs--there was only one recommendation for the Department of Defense that had the potential to save $2 billion annually by 2027. With a budget of roughly $600 billion a year, representing nearly half of discretionary spending, it is beyond the pale that OMB could only come up with a single proposal for savings at DoD.”



Posted 7/27/2017




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