The recent news has been full of reminders about why support for our troops is so critical.
Memorial Day has just passed. Our nation grieved the loss of Marines performing humanitarian work in Nepal. We cheered a Special Forces raid that brought justice to an Islamic State leader in Syria.
Congress is preparing to send President Barack Obama a bill to fund our nation’s military for the next year. This National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) does more than just provide resources for a strong defense; it provides a host of other security benefits for our country and our allies. Unfortunately House Democrats decided it also provided an opportunity to put political posturing ahead of our troops.
[sharequote align="center"]This bill makes sure the Defense Department has what it needs to get the job done for our country.[/sharequote]
At a basic level, this bill makes sure the Defense Department has what it needs to get the job done for our country. At $612 billion, House Speaker John Boehner and the House GOP leadership ensured that the NDAA adequately funds our nation's defense needs while keeping the country on track to balance the budget.
Within these funds are resources to increase the pay and benefits for those who wear our country’s uniform. This includes allowing service members to contribute to a portable retirement plan and cutting the backlog for military childcare, easing the burden on the families of those who serve.
The NDAA includes funds to help defeat Islamic State. Security assistance for Iraqi forces, training and equipment for Syrian rebels and support for Jordan’s military will mean enhanced capabilities for friends of our country who can take the fight to the enemy directly.
The bill also helps better protect our homeland. It authorized funds for an East Coast missile defense site, which can help thwart threats from rogue nations like Iran, which continues to develop missile capabilities despite a host of concessions from the Obama administration.
Finally, at the House Republican leadership’s direction, the bill strengthens oversight of Obama administration prisoner transfers. After the disastrous exchange of five Guantanamo detainees fpr Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Congress will no longer allow the president unilaterally to transfer terrorists to other countries. In addition, Congress is using the power of the purse to withhold a full quarter of funding for the secretary of Defense’s office until he turns over all documents requested about the Bergdahl transfer. Congressional oversight of the Executive branch is long overdue.
SGT Kurtis Scheinder from Detroit, Michigan with the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division patrols on the edge of a village outside of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shank on March 29, 2014 near Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan. Scott Olson/Getty Images
Nancy Pelosi encouraged Democrats to oppose it. Democrats couldn’t get more federal spending they wanted elsewhere so they decided to derail funding for our troops to try to get it; 143 Democrats voted against the bill on the House floor.
This politicization of defense was even too much for the Washington Post editorial board – normally no friend of a Republican Congress. In a May 15, 2015, editorial in favor of the bill moving through Congress, the Post said, “national defense is a clear and constitutional responsibility of the federal government; fully funding it should take priority.”
“What we haven’t seen from the president is a clear and convincing explanation of how and where he would tailor U.S. security commitments to fit the smaller budget he is, in effect, threatening to accept. Far better for him, and his party’s leadership in Congress, to help an adequate defense budget keep moving through Congress, rather than perpetuate a fight all Americans, whether Republican or Democrat, might later regret,” the Post concluded.
Our men and women in uniform deserve better than the spectacle of watching members of Congress try to deny them critical funds to pursue their own political priorities. They deserve the adequate funding of their needs that House Republicans provided and which members of both parties initially supported.
In fact, the above doesn’t go far enough. Leaders in Washington should immediately rescind sequestration—the draconian and untargeted cuts made to our military in 2013 because Congress failed to reach an agreement on cutting the budget in any rational way.
Any runner knows it is much easier to keep up than catch up. We can definitely find savings in the Pentagon budget, but the sequestration cuts are indiscriminate. Leaders need to roll up their sleeves and find the savings, not take the easy way out and place the burden on the backs of our brave men and women.
We should all try to put aside politics in name of unified support for these Americans. After all, they do everyday on the front lines for us. Maybe Democrats in Congress would learn by example.
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