WASHINGTON, D.C. –-- House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement about the House of Representatives’ passage of the FY 18 NDAA conference report:
“We are, on the Armed Services Committee, very proud of the fact that we produce a legislative product every year. We actually do legislation the way it’s supposed to be done. I want to thank our colleagues in the Senate: Some of the most contentious debates that Chairman Thornberry and I participate in are not between each other but with the Senate. But those debates are handled with great dignity and intelligence, and I enjoy working with Senator McCain and Senator Reed, and they are great partners in this final product.
“There is a lot of very good policy in this bill. We have made significant improvements on acquisition reform, even while acknowledging we have a long way to go to get the efficiency we need out of the Pentagon budget. This bill does a great job of supporting our troops and their families. I will also highlight that this bill states that climate change is a national security threat: We make it the policy of the United States Congress to acknowledge climate change and the impact it’s going to have on our national security. So, this is a good product. I’m proud of it; I’m proud of the work we’ve done together—as Chairman Thornberry says, none of us like everything that’s in it, but we reached a compromise to produce a legislative product on an important issue.
“The challenge that we have going forward is the money. The bill as it’s currently constructed is some $80 billion above the budget caps. And the bill can’t make that money appear on its own: Unless the budget caps are lifted and the appropriators pass the appropriations bill, that funding doesn’t happen. We also have a larger problem. We have a $20 trillion debt. Our deficit is close to $700 billion and has no prospect of going down soon. And at the same time, we have other needs. The amount of revenue we take in as a country, unsurprisingly, impacts or should impact the amount of money we can spend.
“We are having this debate now and talking about how underfunded the military is and how badly we need to shore up our readiness, but the rest of this same week, Congress is trying to make sure our government takes in trillions of dollars less money through tax cuts. That is wildly inconsistent.
“If we believe we have these needs, we ought to be able to pay for them. There are other aspects of the budget: The needs for infrastructure, the needs for education, these are things that make our country strong. It is all part of the same whole. If we are going to get to a responsible place, we can’t just say defense gets whatever it wants and let the chips fall where they may elsewhere.
“If we truly care about making sure that our troops have enough money, we need to do two more things in addition to this bill: Number one, we should avoid passing a massive tax cut that undermines our ability to fund defense and national security. And number two, we need to take a hard look at our strategy and figure out where we can save money. Even if we had decided to make cuts and raise revenue instead of cutting it, we are still looking at needs within the national security budget, when you look at the programs that people want to fund, that are wildly beyond the amount of money that we have.
“If we have a national security strategy that exceeds the amount of money we have, the ones left holding the bag are our troops. They are the ones who are asked to do missions that they are not adequately equipped to perform and asked to train without adequate resources. That is what we must fund.
“To do that, we need to do more than just pass this bill. We need an overall strategic approach that coherently matches our national security goals up with the resources necessary to support them.”