Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Texas who chairs the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, said recently that the U.S. Military has not begun to rebuild yet, despite President Donald Trump giving the military more operational freedom than ever before.
“The state of the military does need improvement,” Thornberry said during an interview at the 2017 Reagan National Defense Forum over the weekend. “We have not rebuilt the military.”
While President Trump has “taken some of the shackles off the military, which has been tremendous” in the fight against ISIS, “we haven’t begun to rebuild [the military] yet,” he pointed out.
Thornberry said the military’s budget shouldn’t be conditional on other policy issues, and that the holdover budgets, or CRs – a continuing resolution for appropriations – damages the military.
“We need to bring this to a head. We can’t continue to inflict the damage that a CR inflicts on the military,” Thornberry said.
“We have sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines who are losing their lives in accidents because of lack of training, improper maintenance and lack of readiness across the board, and that’s wrong,” he added.
The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have volleyed a defense budget back and forth in order to come to a final draft proposal that the President could sign, but time is running out.
House and Senate negotiators recently supported a 2.4-percent pay raise for troops, an increase in the number of troops, and increased spending for aircraft and ships as part of the proposed $700 billion Pentagon budget. The U.S. House will now review the defense policy bill – the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and then it will head to the Senate for approval before it goes to President Trump’s desk for ratification.
This is the largest proposed military budget to date, particularly the most significant budget to be passed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Senate and House Appropriations Committees still need to reach an agreement on the spending bill. Senate Democrats have vowed to block large increases in defense spending if other programs are not funded.
Congress has to come up with a definitive plan to fund the $700 billion budget by December. Congress still has to approve a defense budget cap increase – the Department of Defense Appropriations Act – in order to accommodate the proposed NDAA. The Act has already been passed in the House.
The proposed bill would include 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which is 20 more than the Trump Administration’s request.
The budget would allocate $26.2 billion for 14 new ships, including three littoral combat ships; and flexible spending for $5.9 billion for the Virginia-class submarine programs; $5.6 billion for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers; $4.4 billion for aircraft carriers; $3.1 billion for Army helicopters; and $1.9 billion for 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets.
The plan calls for 7,500 Active Duty members, 500 National Guard members and 500 Reservists for the Army; 4,000 Active Duty and 1,000 Reserves for the Navy; 4,100 Active Duty, 900 Guard and 800 Reserves for the Air Force; and 1,000 Active Duty Marines.
The plan to create a new “Space Corps” under the umbrella of the Air Force was also rejected.
Watch Chairman Thornberry’s comments here: