GOP must choose battles carefully to avoid army budget menace: WSJ
An opinion piece published in the WSJ says Republicans who will take control of the House in January must avoid subjecting the military to the harm of budgetary brinkmanship.
In an opinion piece published by Dustin Walker and Mackenzie Eaglen in The Wall Street Journal titled The Military Pays for Beltway Budgetary Brinkmanship, the two writers stressed that US policymakers must not "hamstring the armed forces’ ability to wage war against an adversary."
Walker and Eaglen recalled a 2018 quote by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who considered that "the biggest impediment to U.S. military readiness over the past decade hasn’t been any enemy overseas but budgetary chaos in Washington."
The writers believe that Republicans who will take control of the House in January "must choose their battles carefully to avoid subjecting the military to the harm of budgetary brinkmanship," adding that their "first order of business should be to fund the government for fiscal 2023 immediately."
According to the writers, "Passing a budget resolution and the 12 individual appropriations bills promptly next year will help provide the military with timely resources. It will also give House Republicans an opportunity to get the government’s finances in check. They can do it only if they learn the lessons from those who came before them."
Walker and Eaglen recalled that "in 2011 a new Republican House majority charged into a budget battle with a Democratic Senate and White House. After months of continuing resolutions and on the brink of government shutdown, Congress in April passed a compromise appropriations bill that cut $40 billion from President Obama’s budget."
"Republicans then insisted on cuts to future federal spending before lifting the federal debt ceiling. Financial markets were in turmoil. The Treasury Department had exhausted its capacity to borrow. In August, Congress finally passed the Budget Control Act, another compromise, which cut spending by nearly $1 trillion over 10 years and aimed to save an additional trillion through caps on discretionary spending and automatic spending cuts," the writers explained.
In their opinion piece, Walker and Eaglen believe that the Republican majority should remember that "to pass legislation aimed at curtailing debt and deficits, Republicans needed Democratic votes. Fifty-nine House Republicans voted against the omnibus appropriations bill, and 66 voted against the Budget Control Act."
"Second, compromise legislation heavily shaped by a Democratic White House and Senate failed to rein in federal spending. Ten years after the Budget Control Act became law in August 2011, the national debt had doubled and federal debt had grown from 96% gross domestic product to 121%. Democrats didn’t want to cut spending and limited options for genuine fiscal reform by exempting most entitlement programs from the Budget Control Act," explained Walker and Eaglen.
According to the writers, "The compromise was congenitally flawed and led to 10 years of budgetary chaos—forcing Congress repeatedly to avert mindless, damaging cuts to the military—until the legislation finally expired after fiscal 2021. Control of the House alone wasn’t enough for Republicans to achieve lasting fiscal restructuring. Nor will it be in the next Congress."
The third lesson Republicans should learn from the past, said Walker and Eaglen, is that "the military was forced to bridge the gap between the GOP’s fiscal ambition and its limited congressional power. The Budget Control Act initially cut $487 billion from defense. The law required 50% of additional reductions to come from defense, which accounted for only 20% of federal spending. Over the next decade, the U.S. spent less on defense than originally planned—and less efficiently."
"With operations in the Middle East continuing and threats from China and Russia on the rise, a chaotic cycle of continuing resolutions and late appropriations forced the military to do more with less. The resulting readiness crisis not only cost tens of billions of dollars to redress later; it put the lives of American service members in jeopardy," read the article.
The writers pointed out that "House Republicans in 2023 will have a much narrower mandate than they did in 2011, when the realities of divided government turned dreams of fiscal discipline into a nightmare of fiscal disorder wrought by the Budget Control Act and sequestration."
Walker and Eaglen concluded their opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal by saying that "as our military edge over China hangs in the balance today, the new majority must protect our armed forces from another lost decade of solipsism and shortsightedness."
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