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

The Government’s ‘Use it or Lose it’ Syndrome

While a government shutdown appears imminent, due to political gridlock surrounding budget negotiations, the government has continued to do what they do best: spend taxpayer dollars. Most agencies’ primary concern over the past week has been to spend the remainder of their fiscal year budget instead of relinquishing the unused funds to help save money.

This so-called ‘use it or lose it’ culture promotes wasteful spending and an overall lack of concern for fiscal responsibility. It’s part of the dysfunctional bureaucratic attitude in Washington that prevails across all sections of the federal government.

The fiscal year ends on September 30 and the new fiscal year begins October 1. This ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy means that every agency must use all of the funds allotted to them for the fiscal year by today or that money will be lost and they won’t be able to use it. In that event, Congress could decide that since that particular agency didn’t use all of the funds allotted to them, the amount of money in future budgets should be cut.

So basically every year around September, you see a huge spending spree from government agencies. The reality is that an agency is penalized for saving money and given a pat on the back for spending it, no matter what it’s spent on.

This weekend, The Washington Post reportedThe Department of Veterans Affairs bought $562,000 worth of artwork. In a single day, the Agriculture Department spent $144,000 on toner cartridges. And in a single purchase, the Coast Guard spent $178,000 on ‘Cubicle Furniture Rehab.’”

Now you would think that in a time of budget cuts and austerity those agencies could find a better use for their funds. Instead of buying artwork, the VA could have met some veterans’ disability claims, or implement a bonus incentive to employees who are processing the most. How about hiring more medical staff at VA hospitals? And ‘Cubicle Furniture Rehab’ is a fancy way of saying they bought a large amount of unnecessary office furniture to make employees offices shiny and pretty.

If congress is serious about spending reform and budget cuts they must acknowledge the perverse incentives at work. They might want to start with the backwards, illogical fiscal year ‘use or lose’ culture inside the government that promotes waste and irresponsibility. They can make all of the cuts they want, but until they get to the root of the problem — the endemic spending culture — real reform will not occur. And it isn’t going to be simple, which is why most politicians won’t address it. Most would rather make untargeted cuts to the military that only mask the problem.

Spending reform starts with acknowledging where the problem lies. Leadership must address the ‘use or lose’ race to September 30th that happens at the end of every fiscal year is horrifically wasteful and further promotes fiscal irresponsibility. Accountability must take precedence government wide if there is any hope of progress. Agencies need to be incentivized to save money and their surplus funds should be allowed to be roll over into the next fiscal year. Only then will we see change. Until that happens we are only going to see more threats of government shutdowns, more shifting of blame, and more wasteful spending.

This is government hypocrisy at its finest. In the midst of sequestration, budget cuts and a looming government shutdown, agencies across the board are still free to spend as wastefully as they see fit. It’s this lack of accountability and lack of common sense that is constantly plaguing our government. It is a vicious and inept cycle and we, as American taxpayers, are the ones paying the price for their negligence.

Originally published at The Daily Caller: http://dailycaller.com/2013/09/30/on-the-verge-of-shutdown-government-agencies-are-still-wasting-hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollards/

Follow Amber on Twitter: @AmberBarno

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