No laughing matter: Lift the budget caps and support our national defense

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Once again, Congress and the White House find themselves unable to fulfill their most basic annual obligation – funding the operations of the federal government and, more importantly, providing for our national defense.

I’ve heard analogies to both Yogi Berra (“It’s déjà vu all over again”) and the movie “Groundhog Day,” but the sad truth is, this isn’t funny at all. It’s deadly serious. It threatens our national security at a time when we face a growing multitude of threats – nuclear, conventional, terrorist, and cyber.

{mosads}Here’s the situation.

On Oct.1, the federal government began Fiscal Year 2018 and, as has been the case for the past decade, they are beginning under a stopgap funding bill (a continuing resolution, or CR) that freezes spending based on last year’s levels and doesn’t allow for new contracts. This situation is likely to continue until December, if not longer – last year, they didn’t pass “full-year” appropriations legislation until late April, nearly seven months into the fiscal year.

But it’s not just that Congress failed to enact on time any of the twelve FY 2018 appropriations bills required to fund the government. Congress and the administration have said they want to provide long overdue increased funding for national defense, and have proposed legislation calling for such an increase. But they must first come to an agreement to raise the statutory spending caps that have been in place for the past six years, irresponsibly hamstringing our military’s ability to meet evolving and growing threats around the world, including in cyberspace.

In a nutshell, they must first change the law to raise the caps in order to provide the defense spending hikes they say they want. So far that hasn’t happened.

Every year, politicians and pundits alike decry sequestration – the mindless, across-the-board spending cuts that would be imposed if Congress spends more than allowed under the spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act. However, sequestration has only happened once since then, in 2013.

Yes, the threat of sequestration (and government shutdown) may hang over us every year. But it has been the limits imposed by the hard and fast spending caps each year, regardless of our defense needs, combined with operating the government under a CR for months at a time that have done the real damage to our military posture and readiness. That needs to stop.

A true American hero, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has spent his entire six-decade career in the Navy and Congress in defense of our nation, recently summed it up well. He said, “Congress and the White House must negotiate a budget agreement that will lift the caps on defense spending and enable us to adequately fund the military… (and) finally make an investment in our military that is worthy of the service and sacrifice of those who volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf.”

Sen. McCain is right.

Moreover, Congress needs to make a commitment that in the years to follow, it will do its job and pass a budget and full-year appropriations bills before the start of the fiscal year, like every responsible state, locality, educational institution, non-profit organization, corporation and household does in America.

That’s the path needed to ramp up and maintain the national defense posture America needs.

John B. Wood is CEO and chairman of Telos Corporation

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