Most Americans agree that deficit reduction needs to be a national priority and that our nation needs to be more fiscally responsible. Moreover, there should be no debate that Congress has a constitutional obligation to provide the means to defend our nation’s homeland security. The current global environment requires the United States to maintain a high state of awareness and readiness to protect its security, prosperity and values and to maintain international order — the bedrock of the president’s national security strategy.
Our current national leadership has pledged a renewed focus in the Pacific, and with good reason. China, which recently put its first aircraft carrier into service, has territorial disputes with several neighboring countries. Tensions are still high on the Pusan Peninsula, with the unpredictability of North Korea remaining constant. That’s just the Pacific. At the end of last year, we brought our combat troops out of Iraq and, in recent weeks, brought back the last of our surge troops from Afghanistan. As recent terrorist attacks highlight, we cannot ignore the Arab Spring, nor can we let the escalating tensions between Israel and Iran go unchecked. The domestic and international threat of al Qaeda and other rogue groups has not gone away. With more than 90 percent of global commerce traveling the world’s oceans and seas, the threat of piracy and other hindrances to international shipping, especially at critical choke points, remains high.
This is the reality we face, and it cannot be ignored. Most Americans realize it, the administration and Congress realize it, our allies and even our foes realize it. The United States played a pivotal role in shaping the course of the 20th century. Now we have the opportunity and, as a world leader, the responsibility to help shape the 21st century.
As a nation, we ask the brave men and women in uniform and those in civil service to assume the responsibilities of executing the objectives of our national security strategy. As a nation, however, we have failed them by not holding our elected officials accountable. Instead of passing a budget, Congress has used continuing resolutions in every fiscal year for the past 16 years. Operating under this funding scheme is very disruptive, erratic and, in the long term, wasteful. It affects how we acquire and maintain equipment, how we train and how we respond to contingencies. It negates any plan made to support national objectives and erodes the ability of those in uniform and civil service to execute stated missions. Not only have our sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen been forced to operate under delayed budget execution guidelines, every year those responsible for our nation’s security are asked to deploy more frequently with less notice. Congress knows the military (and their families) will somehow figure it out and carry out the plan of the day — they always do.
Our lawmakers have relegated their authority, absolved themselves of responsibility and continue to use the military as a political pawn, rather than an instrument of national policy. Congress must protect our national and homeland security. That means passing a budget.
Throughout its history, the United States has had a sound national security policy, one that changes over time to address current situations appropriately and remain congruent with the global environment. Congress must put partisan issues aside and show its resolve and commitment to deficit reduction while understanding our homeland security is its primary constitutional responsibility.
Dale Lumme is national executive director of the Navy League of the United States.
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