Over the past decade and a half, our country has faced down terrorism, waged two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and kept in check rogue nations that seek to build and proliferate nuclear weapons.
Since 2008, America faced all these same problems as well as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The road ahead will not be easy. The collapse of the credit market and the accompanying decline in federal revenues have left our nation in a position where we simply no longer have as many resources to devote to national security as we once had. Therefore, we must take two steps to ensure that our nation's economic challenges do not compromise our nation's security.
Investing in Our Troops and their Families
Protecting our nation and defending our country abroad will be achieved only through the service and sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces. We must, therefore, put our defense dollars towards strengthening our fighting force so that our troops have the skills and equipment that they need to counter 21st century threats. This includes providing consistent training and resources to our special operations forces who are in charge of carrying out counter terrorism missions. In addition, I will continue to seek out bipartisan ways to support our troops and their families by promoting the health and stability of our armed forces. I have done this in the past by working with my colleagues to get better results from our military medical care and by supporting initiatives like the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Getting Better Results from Our Defense Dollars
The Department of Defense’s budget accounts for more than 52 percent of our discretionary budget, more than any other federal agency. In Fiscal Year 2014, the Department of Defense (DoD) spent $496 billion on its regular budget and $85 billion on war time operations. Much of this expenditure is dedicated to enhancing our nation’s security and providing our troops with the state of the art weapons and resources that they need to carry out their missions. However, some of our defense dollars are not always spent in a cost-effective manner. In 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its annual assessment of the Department of Defense’s major weapon systems. The GAO report revealed that even though between fiscal years 2012 and 2013 DoD reduced the number of programs of record from 85 to 80 there was still $12.6 billion in cost overruns during that year. However, 50 of the programs were able to realize cost decreases of $30.9 billion while the remaining 30 programs reported cost increases of $43.5 billion. This inefficient spending not only adds to our deficit and debts, but it also takes away resources from our troops fighting to defend our country from national security threats.
If we are to defend our nation from a wide array of threats while also navigating our budgetary and economic challenges, we must curb this inefficient use of defense dollars. This mission becomes all the more important as the Department deals with the impacts of sequestration. A few specific areas of focus include ending no-bid defense contracts, improving the weapons acquisition process so that our weapons are developed in a cost-effective way and incentivizing defense contractors and the military to deliver weapon systems on time and under budget. The GAO also mentions the Department of Defense as being at high risk for waste and fraud because it needs to improve its finance and accounting systems in order to effectively manage its money and finally be able to pass an independent audit, something that almost all federal agencies and private companies can do. These reforms would save millions of taxpayer dollars, strengthen the ability of our troops to carry out their missions and help the department better manage the automatic cuts that occurred as part of sequestration.
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