For the sake of our national security, Congress must end its budget battles
On Tuesday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued its Annual Worldwide Threats report.
If you weren’t already unsettled by the state of the world, reading this sobering report will certainly leave you concerned. From Russia to China, health security to transnational threats like drugs and terrorism, and more, the ODNI report shows just how unsettled the world is today and what it’s anticipated to be over the course of the next year.
Dealing with threats like these means putting and keeping our budgetary house in order, but too often, we’re operating on temporary funding, and we can’t keep doing so.
We often talk about how we are a global leader, a guarantor of international security, yet Congress continues to fail to provide regular annual funding for the military. Until Thursday night, as Russia invaded its neighbor — a country slightly smaller than the state of Texas — our military was operating under previous funding levels at a time when it needed to be investing in the future while meeting the threats of today.
For the fourth time since October of last year and for the 12th year out of 13, Congress risked financial catastrophe if it failed to approve an annual funding measure. To make matters worse, if Congress hadn’t passed a funding bill (or yet another continuing resolution) by today, the government would have shut down, again.
There are few times more perilous for the government to play chicken with a budget shutdown than when Moscow is marching towards Kyiv and our NATO allies are looking to Washington for leadership. We’re rightly sending weapons and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and deploying troops to reassure our allies in NATO, but at home, we were relying on continuing resolutions rather than passing a budget. It’s the sheer entanglement of bad politics.
This is no way to run a government and no way to manage our military and security affairs and shouldn’t be a partisan issue. The administration controls all three branches of government and struggled to get a budget finalized. There simply isn’t any excuse for this political failure. Our country has the need and there is a clear sense of urgency, yet they seemed uninterested or incapable of getting the basic business of government done.
Relying on continuing resolutions is sophomoric and leaves our servicemen and women in the lurch while Congress plays politics. The services cannot plan for long-term acquisition or events, they cannot invest in next-generation systems and they cannot re-arm and re-equip stores that are being rapidly depleted due to foreign support. Failing to manage our fiscal house leaves our adversaries emboldened and allies questioning our seriousness.
And you should be certain that our adversaries are watching our every move. As the ODNI writes, “Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, and Pyongyang have demonstrated the capability and intent to advance their interests at the expense of the United States and its allies.” China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are looking for weaknesses to exploit, and our failure to budget for potential conflict with each is just the kind of opportunity they would seize upon.
What does this look like in practice? “Major adversaries and competitors are enhancing and exercising their military, cyber and other capabilities, raising the risks to U.S. and allied forces, weakening our conventional deterrence, and worsening the longstanding threat from weapons of mass destruction.” Just last year, Beijing tested an advanced hypersonic missile over the South China Sea. Defending against that kind of threat and preparing our own capabilities is not cheap, and requires long-term planning. China doesn’t need to worry about the budget cycle, but we do and we must get our house in order.
Providing our military with budgetary stability and predictability in an unpredictable world is Congress’ first duty and responsibility and too often it is found wanting. It is difficult, if not impossible, to provide and execute strategic guidance when the legislative branch cannot agree on basic funding. We need our eyes and attention on strategic competition, not partisan budget fights. This means passing a budget, not just now, but regularly in the future, and this needs bipartisan leadership.
Mike Rogers served as the Republican representative in Congress for the 8th District of Michigan from 2000 until 2015, including as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee from 2011-2015.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.