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

Can Ted Cruz Save America?

Ted Cruz is good for America. The nation is longing for a confident, assertive leader. One who exerts leadership, integrity and courage. An individual who not only preaches principle, but who acts on it as well. We saw those characteristics in Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) yesterday and into today when he spoke on the Senate floor for over 21 hours on why Obamacare is terrible for America and his plea to defund it.

It takes a admirable individual to not only stand for 21 hours, but to articulately speak on a single issue for that long. That requires significant resolve and passion on the subject. We saw honest courage as Cruz stood up to not only Democrats, but to long-term, establishment Republicans who would rather look the other way than do what is right for America and the people they represent.

Republicans like Senator John McCain and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke out against Cruz’s utilization of a ‘filibuster’ without explanation. Their opposition to Cruz standing up and fighting for an issue that the majority of Americans oppose was their way of telling Cruz to stand down and ‘stay in his lane.’ That’s petty behavior for team members on the same side whom all oppose Obamacare. And they did so without providing a logical strategy of their own.  And the truth is, Cruz has gotten such opposition from establishment Republicans because he threatens them. He has put pressure on them to start doing their job, to stand up for those who elected them into office and stop cowering.

The American people are sick and tired of being lied to by career politicians. We are sick of the infighting amongst those in the Republican Party. For the past five years, we’ve have been told one thing while another thing actually happens. The gross dysfunction and gridlock in Washington is out of control and we need leaders who are willing to stand up and take risk to actually accomplish what they ran for office for in the first place. And we saw that in the few Senators who supported and helped Senator Cruz, including Rand Paul (R-KY), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and others.

And to those Americans who would rather criticize and continue to just say you can’t stand politics and politicians, wake up and stop being part of the problem. Start paying attention. This is your country. Be proactive. Stand behind those who actually want to make a difference in preserving this country. Don’t support those who only want to preserve their seat in Congress. A new, younger generation of leadership has emerged within the Republican Party with Ted Cruz at the forefront.

Senator Cruz did more than give a speech for 21 hours. He showed America that he cares about its future. He showed Americans that he is listening and is willing to fight for them. He brought light to the fact that the Affordable Care Act is killing American jobs. Real people are suffering. Real people are losing jobs or are being reduced to part time. Losing work, higher premiums, and higher taxes are the realities of Obamacare.

Well done, Senator Cruz. Thank you for believing in America, listening to the people and for defending the principles that make our nation exceptional. I for one will not forget your courage as you stood up to the establishment to defend the American people. America needs more leaders like you. Keep up the good fight.

Additionally published at http://www.examiner.com/article/can-ted-cruz-save-america

Follow Amber on Twitter at: @AmberBarno

The Money is Gone: Army Feeling the Pressure of Sequestration

Budget cuts to the Department of Defense (DOD) are not going to stop anytime soon. The DOD was hit with $37 billion in cuts this year and is likely to face an additional $52 billion in cuts next year.

But the Army is missing the big picture when it comes to handling sequestration. It should be about making the right cuts verses the easy cuts the first time around—in order to avoid having to deal with the same problem in the near future. Unfortunately, that’s not the approach they’re taking.

A case in point is last week’s memo from Army leadership ordering commanders and staff to develop a comprehensive plan to cut 25 percent of the budget and personnel at all Army headquarters with the rank of 2-star and above. The deadline for the plans is in nearly two weeks, on September 11, 2013.

From the text of the memo:

Let there be no mistake, aggregate reductions WILL TAKE PLACE. The money is gone; our mission now is to determine how best to allocate these cuts while maintaining readiness. We expect Army leaders, military and civilian, to seize this opportunity to re-shape our Army. This effort will take PRIORITY OVER ALL other Headquarters, Department of the Army activities…

…. To ensure Army readiness at these reduced budget levels, we must make the best and maximum use of every single dollar provided to the Army.

While headquarter reductions are necessary, especially as the Afghanistan war is coming to a close, giving the Review Group a two week deadline is only setting them up for failure. There is no doubt the Review Group will meet the deadline. But it will merely mean decisions will be rushed and the outcome will likely be ill-considered and incomprehensible, rather than the careful, strategic consideration of future needs that is required.

These cuts are essential but the Review Group must be given the adequate time to make decisions that will effectively reduce unnecessary spending. Forcing commanders and other military personnel to make these decisions in two weeks is illogical and will only result in poor decision-making and reduced readiness.

Originally published at: http://www.concernedveteransforamerica.org/2013/08/23/the-money-is-gone-army-feeling-the-pressure-of-sequestration/#sthash.lGxzJect.dpuf

Follow Amber on Twitter: @AmberBarno

Are All Veterans Created Equal?

There are few things more humbling and patriotic than witnessing a military funeral. Viewing the military customs, the decorative uniforms, and hearing taps echo through the trees, help those in attendance understand and appreciate their sacrifice.

It is an honour. It is a tradition. It is a service that is bestowed only to the finest men and women this country has to offer, its veterans.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan wrote an opinion piece last week that addressed the nation’s debt crisis, offering a solution by starting with cutting military funeral honors. McClellan went as far to say that ‘most veterans did nothing heroic,’ implying veterans’ military funerals are a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Well Mr. McClellan, I beg to differ.

Veterans are heroic. Each and every one of them. It doesn’t matter if they served as a cook or as an Infantryman. No matter the reason, each veteran felt the need to serve his or her country, which is heroic enough in itself. We need more brave men and women like our veterans in this country.

They understood the need to protect something larger than themselves and defend this great nation that has provided so many opportunities for so many people. They all take the same oath to protect and serve the United States of America no matter what the job title.

By joining the military, each person knows that there is a significant chance he or she could end up fighting our nation’s wars where their outcome is unknown. While certain jobs may be considered more dangerous than another, one does not diminish the other. The military is a team effort and it does not succeed with out the combined force. Each and every veteran matters. Our Nation’s veterans are not expendable and either are the honors they have respectfully earned.

McClellan stated “Everybody knows government needs to cut costs,” before making the recommendation that we start by stripping veterans of the honours they undoubtedly deserve, he may want to dig a bit deeper and see what the federal government is spending tax dollars on.

Might I suggest that McClellan research the area of government waste to discover the plethora of ‘smaller programs’ that could be at the top of the list above making any cuts to veterans programs. Make cuts in areas that are wasting taxpayer dollars. Do not disrespect the small but significant percentage of people who have defended our country so bravely.

Our veterans do not deserve to suffer for the inabilities of political leadership. They deserve to be recognised by the federal government with military honors if they so desire.

I’ve been to military funerals. I’ve served on military funeral details. I’ve been a military pallbearer. Let me tell you that it does matter.

It makes a difference to families and friends. It matters to fellow veterans. It matters that we as a nation value honoring all of our veterans who have done so much for our country. I for one think it is a disgrace to attack our veterans’ military honors for fiscal mismanagement.

Follow Amber on Twitter at @AmberBarno

Published at The Commentator: http://www.thecommentator.com/article/3115/are_all_veterans_created_equal