Budget cuts to the military weaken our preparedness

The nation’s investment in, and thereby the commitment, to our national security is at a dangerous tipping point. We want, need and demand armed forces that can fight and win when called upon. With the burgeoning readiness crisis resulting from compounding budget cuts, not the least of which is the indiscriminate ax of sequestration, we must ask: Are the nation’s leaders equipping our force with what is needed to prepare and produce such a result?

Repeating “I support the troops” is respectable and well-deserved for our all-volunteer force, but if Congress says one thing and does another, our nation’s security will go down a dangerous but well-trodden path of a hollow force.

It is Congress’s constitutional duty, as laid out in Article 1, Section 8, “to provide for the common Defence.” Our armed forces deserve better than Washington’s “crisis management,” and so do our citizens.

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Ours is the best and most powerful military in the world, one that can project peace and power at the same time. The ranks are filled with professionals who do their jobs extremely well because of years of training and investments in the most valuable resource: the people. Serving in the military is an inherently dangerous job. We have grown accustomed to this and we take their safety for granted. Our forces are experts in fighting wars and managing crises that demand their attention — for now.

However, crisis management in Washington is at a peak and is crippling our military’s readiness. The Department of Defense has absorbed more than its fair share of cuts when it comes to deficit reduction. In recent weeks, I have led many readiness briefings to alert my colleagues of the specific effects of cuts to our nation’s military and the dangerous effects on readiness. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey recently shared his concerns with leaders on the House and Senate Armed Services committees highlighting the urgency of the situation.

As of today, budget cuts have totaled roughly $800 billion from the Department of Defense’s budget over the next 10 years; if you factor in full sequestration, and the efficiencies initiatives achieved under former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, cuts total more than $1.3 trillion out of the Defense budget by 2022. The problem with sequestration isn’t just the devastating cuts, it is the fact that the cuts happen simultaneously across every branch of service, in every program. These kinds of cuts will decimate our forces, inflicting collateral damage that our enemies could only dream about.

With these kinds of cuts, our forces will be unprepared to deploy, their safety will be jeopardized, their missions compromised, and there will be an increased likelihood that more Americans will be killed carrying out their constitutional duty, both on the battlefield and in training.

When our military is called upon to respond to a crisis, we want it to be ready. That means properly manned, trained and equipped, and prepared to go without question. On Sept. 10, 2001, the military was unknowingly preparing for the events of the next fateful day. These events exceeded our wildest nightmares and surpassed any war game or training exercise in which our forces had ever participated. Our confidence in our military stays strong when Congress supports the troops not just in words but in the authorization and appropriation of adequate funds and resources needed to execute orders effectively.

We need a force that is properly manned, trained, and equipped to fight a war. This cannot and does not happen overnight. This cannot and does not happen without a strong investment in our force.

The fact that sequestration continues to be the law of the land is the fault of Democrats and Republicans. Both parties would be smart to pause to understand what effect this policy will have on our nation’s security now and in the future.

Throughout our history, we have been misguidedly consistent with our reset and readiness after a major conflict; we have gotten it wrong every time. It can be argued that the only conflict in which we were completely prepared to respond was Desert Storm in 1991. This world is not getting any safer, and we must get the readiness and reset of our armed forces right in the dawn of the 21st century.

Members of Congress and the administration should ask themselves whether or not they have honored their oath to the Constitution and their moral duty to their country and their constituency by holding hostage the men and women of our Armed Forces by willfully ignoring the effects indiscriminate cuts have had on their readiness to enter battle, their ability to train safely and their morale.

What Congress does in the following days and weeks with its investment in our people — the safety of our armed forces and of our citizens — will say a lot about honoring a commitment and an oath to our nation.


Wittman has represented Virginia’s 1st Congressional District since 2007. He sits on the Natural Resources and Armed Services committees and is chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness subcommittee.