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MILITARY SHARPLY WARNS CONGRESS AGAINST PUNTING ON SPENDING

Mar 31, 2017
Defense Drumbeat

By Jeremy Herb, CNN
March 30, 2017

Washington (CNN) The Navy will cancel ship deployments and shut down carrier air wings. The Air Force will ground all non-deploying squadrons in the US. Blue Angel shows will be scrapped, and Fleet Weeks cut. Thousands of bonuses for troops will go unpaid.

Those are just some consequences the military services are warning Congress about if the legislature doesn't pass a comprehensive spending plan for the rest of this year, according to military documents sent to Capitol Hill and obtained by CNN. The warnings underscore major concerns that Congress may punt on the politically dicey budget process by simply approving a full-year continuing resolution keeping the budget at its current levels instead.

The Pentagon has long warned that military readiness has been cut to the bone by years of constrained budgets, and the latest predictions spell out a stark loss of capabilities. But the looming showdown on Capitol Hill over spending between Democrats, Republicans and the Trump administration may be too politically fraught to stave off the damage that the military warns is coming.

The services hope their point is blunt enough to get Congress to listen. Congressional advocates for higher defense spending plan to point to the lengthy list of potential canceled trainings, maintenance and deployments to pressure lawmakers to cut a deal on spending before the April 28 deadline, after which the government would shut down for lack of approved spending...

The politically easier continuing resolution, however, would result in less spending than the military has requested in its budget, as well as include restrictions on starting new programs under the rules of the CR.

But the military and its allies are determined to keep that from happening.

Democrats on the defense committees also agree the military should not be stuck with a continuing resolution...

The House Armed Services Committee has scheduled a high-profile hearing next week with the full slate of military service chiefs to explain to the public -- and other lawmakers -- what the impact would be if Congress passes a full-year continuing resolution.

"They need to know what the consequences are," House Armed Services Chairman Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry told CNN.

The memos, first reported by Congressional Quarterly, highlight the problems the military brass will detail, with stark warnings that a continuing resolution would exacerbate the military's readiness problems.

Among the impacts:

  • The Army states in its memo sent to Capitol Hill that most units in Army Forces Command would stop training in July, which means brigade combat teams, a grouping of about 3,500 soldiers, deploying to Korea and Europe would cease training while in the US.
  • The Navy warns that it would cancel three warship deployments, creating gaps in Europe and the Middle East, and it would shut down four of the nine groups of aircraft on Navy carriers that aren't deployed.
  • The Marine Corps said that North American flight operations would be stopped for 24 squadrons, which would "significantly worsen" Marine aviation readiness, and precision and training ammunitions would be reduced.
  • And the Air Force said it would ground all non-deploying squadrons starting in May, as well as reduce flying hours that would lead to "a drastic reduction in readiness capabilities in order to continue operations through the end of fiscal year."...
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