Visclosky questions DoD's proposed budget

Chesterton Tribune

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, spoke before the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday as it considered the Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Appropriations Act

Excerpts from Visclosky’s statement:

“The legislation as written has the potential to fill many of the military’s readiness gaps and maintain the strategic technological advantage we enjoy today. Further, . . we have a duty to provide predictable and timely appropriations to the Department of Defense and the rest of the federal government. . . . Unfortunately, at this moment, I am not optimistic about the chances of this bill’s independent enactment in a timely fashion.

“Most prominent of the obstacles facing this legislation is the Budget Control Act of 2011, more commonly referred to as the BCA. I cannot miss an opportunity to point out that I did not vote for the BCA, but it remains the law. The bill we are considering today greatly exceeds the cap on defense spending established under the BCA for FY 2018. So much so, that if enacted as written, and the BCA caps remain in place, the Department of Defense 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. . . . Just to refresh everyone’s memory, the Department savaged its Operations and Maintenance accounts in the second half of FY 2013 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 greatly reducing flight times for its combat coded aircraft, and widespread civilian furloughs. We simply cannot allow that to happen in FY 2018. . . .

The current FY 2018 budget reportedly proposed by the House Majority, while vastly superior to the nonsensical document put forth by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in May, exceeds the BCA cap by $70 billion for defense spending and is $5 billion under the cap for nondefense, ignoring these past compromises. 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. This is the very outcome the Secretary of Defense stated he did not want to happen.

“I hope my predicted path for this bill and those that invest in the human and physical capital of this nation is overly pessimistic and that a consensus will be reached prior to the end of the fiscal year, allowing us to break free from this cycle of uncertainty. Ideally, Congress will enact a full repeal of the act as part of a larger bipartisan effort to address the budgetary issues facing the federal government in its entirety--entitlements and taxes included. If the first six years of the BCA have demonstrated anything, it is that arbitrary caps on discretionary spending, which represents less than one-sixth of the federal budget equation, have had a negligible impact on deficits, inhibited needed long-term investment in our nation, and wasted more through the contortions, delays, and uncertainty it has created. . . .

“Setting aside my frustration with the process, I also wish to express my concern with the significant increase in funding that this bill would provide to DoD--$60 billion more than FY 2017 and $29 billion more than the Department even requested. I support providing additional funding to the Department, as I believe we are asking too much of our brave servicemembers 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. . . .

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for this Committee to exercise rigorous and effective oversight for every dollar it provides, including those for the Department of Defense. We are a coequal branch and as we struggle to right our fiscal ship, oversight is more important than ever.”