Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Monday, October 17, 2016 10:00 pm

Uniquely positioned to restore nation's military readiness

Jim Banks

Our founding fathers made it clear that the most important role of the federal government is to protect our country and secure the inalienable rights of American citizens.

The Constitution reserves the majority of powers for the people or the states, but it grants the federal government the power to "provide for the common defense." Fulfilling this responsibility requires the president and Congress to ensure that our armed forces are trained, equipped and ready at all times.

In the midst of the most complex threat environment our country has faced in over a generation, today the U.S. military is in a readiness crisis that threatens our ability to confront and deter adversaries and address the challenges we face. Our armed forces are smaller, less prepared and less equipped than at any point over the last several decades.

According to a report released last month by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, "More than a decade of conflict, budget uncertainty, and force structure reductions have degraded military readiness. …The military services have reported persistently low readiness levels, which they have attributed to emerging and continued demands on their forces, reduced force structure, and increased frequency and length of deployments."

As a naval reserve officer and the nation’s congressional candidate with the most recent mobilization to a combat zone, I know this readiness crisis is more than just words in a report.

It directly hinders the ability of the men and women who serve our country in uniform to accomplish their mission.

The Army is currently at its smallest size since World War II, with only a third of its brigades ready for combat. In the Marine Corps, 465 of 968 aircraft are able to fly, and mechanics for F/A-18 aircraft have even resorted to searching museums for replacement parts. The Air Force faces a fighter pilot shortage of at least 700. The Navy decreased by 23 ships and 63,000 personnel between 2002 and 2012 and is well below its longtime goal of 313 ships.

For a military that remains in demand around the globe, these reductions in manpower and hardware equate to a significant increase in stress on service members, their families and the equipment they use.

Thankfully, some policymakers are taking this situation seriously and attempting to rebuild our military. Under the leadership of Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the House passed a defense bill earlier this year that takes important steps to modernize our armed forces and restore America’s military readiness.

If elected, I hope to work with leaders like Chairman Thornberry to reverse recent cuts to defense spending and restore predictability and stability to the process Congress uses to appropriate funding.

The current model of Congress passing short-term spending bills at the eleventh hour means the Department of Defense often is unable to effectively compete in pricing for contracts or suppliers, which wastes tax dollars.

Whether it is small businesses attempting to expand, a branch of our military looking to send units to training exercises or a shipyard budgeting for maintenance costs on one of our Navy’s ships, all are negatively affected when funding levels for the next year are not known until the last minute.

I strongly support Speaker Paul Ryan’s desire to see the House operate under "regular order," a process in which each appropriations bill is debated, amended and voted on separately and each member offers input in the process, just as I have experienced in the state legislature over the last six years.

Our founders brilliantly designed our government as a system of checks and balances. However, the system only works when the legislative branch operates as intended. While our military presently faces a worsening readiness crisis, it is not too late to address this situation.

If elected to Congress, I will work to stop further cuts in defense spending and restore the readiness of our armed forces so they can continue serving as a force for good in the world.