Political dysfunction threatens our military and national security…again

In an era of fiscal uncertainty, the military continues to feel the pain of Washington dysfunction. With the ill effects of the partial government shutdown we witnessed in October still fresh in our minds, we are now facing a Congress that may not pass a defense authorization bill. This would be the first time in 51 years that the bill has not passed. Political partisan infighting has become so intense that it is threatening our national security. Why should our military and national defense be held hostage to political gridlock?

Time is running out. The House and Senate are only in session together through Friday, December 13. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2014 is already three months late, which has added to budget ambiguity and weakened our national defense.

We cannot afford to put off the NDAA until January. The continuing resolution ends January 15 and we will reach the debt-ceiling limit on February 15. That means there is only a maximum of 30 legislative days in 2014 to accomplish the goal. And with this Congress, it’s hard to believe that’s enough time.

There are serious repercussions for not passing the NDAA by the end of the year. Many of the ramifications will directly affect military service members and their families, as well as our national security.

(Update:) Although combat pay to our soldiers who are putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan will be spared, special pay and bonuses will not. Authority will not be extended for health professionals’ pay and re-enlistment and aviator bonuses. Worst of all, authority will not be extended to compensate caregivers of our wounded warriors, who are usually family members. Military healthcare for service members and their families will be affected as well. Authority for these forms of special pay will expire on December 31 if the bill does not pass.

Military construction projects essential to military training and readiness will be delayed. This includes projects for a CYBERCOM Command center, laboratories, hospital projects, nuclear power training facilities, as well as projects vital for training requirements overseas. This will vastly affect military readiness that is critical to our national security.

Development, modernization, and procurement of military equipment essential to fighting the war in Afghanistan and other global conflicts will not proceed. This includes: M1 Abrams Tanks, the USS Ford aircraft carrier (the Navy’s newest one), Stryker vehicles, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV), F/A-18s, ballistic missile submarines, Virginia-class submarines, UH-72A Light Utility Helicopters (LUH), F-22s, C-130J, and many types of imperative military equipment. Delays to these programs could end up costing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in the long run.

Reform of the security clearance process will be delayed as well. There have been significant security breaches due to an out-of-date clearance process, which include Edward Snowden and the Navy Yard shooter. It is critically important that the failures of the security clearance process are addressed and realistically reformed.

Delays or interruptions in the capabilities of Special Operations, Cyber Command, counterterrorism and counternarcotics, training of other military forces, and certain programs that support the troops in Afghanistan are also possible.

It is critical that Congress put partisan differences aside and come together for the greater good for our military, national security, and for our nation as a whole. Too much is at stake.

It’s time to stop putting our military men and women on the frontline of Washington politics. For too long they and their families have had to suffer the consequences of political division. Congress’s constant infighting and lack of resolve creates uncertainty within the military ranks and breaks trust. And during a time of war, as we still are, you do not want the troops’ primary concern to be how their paycheck is fluctuating every few months or how they feel ill-prepared for war because they haven’t received adequate training. This uncertainty leads to instability, which weakens our military readiness. Military members must be reassured that their government has their best interest in mind and will continue to make decisions that reflect it.

Congress must address the requirements that are associated with a strong defense. It is critical that members of Congress put aside their own political agendas and pass the NDAA. A powerful defense must remain a priority in uncertain times and in an unforgiving world. For a military that has served and sacrificed in two wars over the past 12 years, they deserve nothing less than certainty that they will receive proper care and benefits, and access to the best equipment and resources to ensure they are taken care of on the battlefield.

Let’s hope Congress agrees.

Originally published at The Daily Caller: http://dailycaller.com/2013/12/12/political-dysfunction-threatens-our-military-and-national-security-again/#ixzz2nnBrKeCm

Attacking Syria with no plan will only make the U.S. look weaker

Assad’s army, Hezbollah, Iran, and Russian interests versus al Qaeda-affiliated groups and other Islamic militants fighting side by side with Syrian rebels with the U.S. itching to join the fight. What could possibly go wrong?

The U.S.’s number one concern at this moment should be that if Assad’s regime falls that his cache of chemical weapons does not fall into the hands of Syrian rebels infiltrated by al Qaeda. This would lead to dire consequences and a situation that far exceeds current conditions. Assisting Syrian rebels (and therefore al Qaeda) by inflicting damage to Assad’s military through U.S. military force in not in line with our national interests nor is it morally sound to support rebels affiliated with a terrorist organization that is responsible for murdering over 3,000 American civilians.

As of right now, the U.S. has no clearly defined objective with a missile strike. There is no strategy or endgame strategy. Bombing runways and aircraft will be ineffective in preventing a future chemical attack nor will it effectively damage Assad’s military. So what might the purpose of this attack be?

President Obama has watched his creditability on a world stage sink to an embarrassing low. Russia, China, Iran, Egypt, and other nations have learned over the past five years that Obama may have a mean bark, but there’s not much of a bite. An attempt to prove to Iran and other nations that we are credible with an ambiguous military strike with no purpose, as Obama has proposed, will only result in the U.S. continuing to look weak. Iran has been dealing with possible repercussions from the U.S. over its nuclear program for decades and does not flinch easily. Obama’s attempt is too little too late for any form of redemption. Additionally, the constant infighting amongst Obama, General Dempsey, and members of Congress about Syria have created an awkward divide and contributed to a perception that the U.S. clearly has no idea how to handle this situation.

The U.S. needs to understand the ramifications of a spur-of-the-moment missile attack in an attempt to redeem Obama on a global scale for making such a bold declaration about crossing ‘redlines’ and appearing weak in the eyes of our adversaries. The Obama administration must thoroughly analyze the consequences he may be faced with following an attack on Syria and the decisions he may have to make. And again, a botched strike with no objective or strategy will make the Obama administration look sloppy and confused.

The decision to bomb Syria is more complex than a simple targeted attack on a few military compounds. It has long-term consequences for our national interests. Iran is threatening to attack Israel, Israel is preparing for war, al Qaeda has promised to rain down terror on Syrian civilians, to name a few, all in retaliation for a U.S. attack on Syria. While these threats would never deter U.S. policy, one has to wonder if Obama is capable of handling such a crisis if one arises.

Above all, Obama needs to consult with Congress before to attacking Syria. This should not be a unilateral decision and this should not be an event he should consider without the support of Congress. In the words of candidate Obama in 2007, the president does not have the power, under the Constitution, to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. There is no actual or imminent threat to our nation at this time.

Next, he needs to wait for the facts and stop jumping to conclusions. After nine years at war in Iraq, I would hope that as a nation we have learned about rushing into any conflict without giving consideration to all aspects, including contingency operations. The White House needs to put aside their ego for awhile and start collaborating on decisions that will benefit our nation as a whole.

The bottom line is at this point, an attack on Syria a does not benefit our national security or strategic national interests. This isn’t a good versus bad conflict. Charging blindly with military force into a nation’s civil war is not beneficial to the U.S. or Syria.

Published at The Daily Caller:  http://dailycaller.com/2013/08/29/attacking-syria-with-no-plan-will-only-make-the-u-s-look-weaker/#ixzz2dNL426ao

Follow Amber on Twitter @AmberBarno

Memorial Day is more than BBQs and Department Store Sales

‘The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.” Calvin Coolidge

What do you think about as Memorial Day approaches?  If you were being honest, you might say you were dreaming of joyful 3 day weekend to kickoff the start of summer. In all reality, the true meaning of Memorial Day has become an afterthought to BBQs, a day off work, or the big sale going on at Macy’s. At best, Memorial Day is thought of as one of those ‘veterans holidays.’ But it’s more than that.

Memorial Day was declared a national holiday in 1971 through an act of Congress. It is a day meant to honor and respect those brave men and women of our armed forces who died serving our country. Furthermore, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act into law in 2000.  The Act was created to unite the nation each Memorial Day and hold a moment of silence at 3pm to remember our nation’s fallen warriors. It is not to be confused with Veterans Day, a national holiday in November that recognizes all who have served in our military, both living and deceased.  Memorial Day is most often recognized through ceremonies at veteran’s cemeteries, community parades, and other patriotic events. Memorial Day is a day to put partisan beliefs aside and remember that you are an American first while honoring those who laid down their lives in service to our nation.

With every passing year, the understanding and appreciation of Memorial Day is diminished by the undeniably growing military-civilian divide. With our men and women in uniform representing less than 1% of the U.S. population, it’s understandable that appreciation for the holiday has faded drastically.  Fewer families have immediate family members who have served. Without that direct connection, many have a difficult time understanding exactly what it means to serve your country or why there’s a need for appreciation for those who have died doing so. Even less know what it’s like to know someone who has died for his or her country.

The men and women who gave their lives serving our nation helped defend our freedoms and liberties while preserving our country as a whole. They gave their lives so that each and every one of us could continue to live our lives as free Americans. As a nation, it is crucial that we never forget to honor those individuals who understood that freedom is not free, answered the call to defend our nation and paid the ultimate sacrifice for it.

This Memorial Day I urge you to do something different. Instead of just using the day to forget about work and celebrate the beginning of summer, attend a Memorial Day event. Watch a parade. Go to a remembrance ceremony. Visit a veteran’s cemetery. Help educate others about Memorial Day and bring awareness to the holiday. Whatever it is you chose to do, remember to honor those who so bravely died in service to our nation.

And for those of you who do remember what the holiday is for and choose to honor our fallen military members, thank you. We need more patriotic Americans like you who understand and never forget that there is a price for freedom.

Additionally published: http://www.examiner.com/article/memorial-day-is-more-than-bbqs-and-department-store-sales

Follow Amber on Twitter: @AmberBarno