Sep 18 2017
“The constitutional responsibility to ‘raise and support Armies’ and ‘provide and maintain a Navy’ is ours. How can we believe that we are meeting our responsibilities when young Americans in uniform are not receiving the necessary resources and capabilities to perform their missions? That blame rests with us, the Congress … For all of you who will join me in voting to authorize these vital, additional resources for our military, I would urge you also to join me in demanding and passing a bipartisan agreement so that we can appropriate those resources … This will require some hard work. It will require some teamwork and some trust in each other. It will require having the courage of our convictions. But in the end, it will require much less of us than the service and sacrifice we ask every day from our men and women in uniform, and which they so dutifully provide us.” — SASC Chairman John McCain Speaking on the Senate Floor Today
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate today prior to the Senate’s vote to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018:
“Today, the Senate will vote on final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. This is the culmination of months of bipartisan work, and it is a product in which all Senators, and all Americans, can take great pride. I want to thank once again my friend and colleague, the Senator from Rhode Island. His partnership on this legislation has been invaluable.
“The fundamental purpose of this legislation, which has united Senators from both sides of the aisle, is to provide our Armed Forces what they need to do the jobs we ask of them. We in this body have no higher duty than to do everything we can to support our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice every day to keep us safe.
“This legislation does that. It keeps faith with our men and women in uniform. It supports a national defense budget of $700 billion for fiscal year 2018, which exceeds the administration’s request by $37 billion and the defense spending caps in the Budget Control Act by $91 billion. The decision of the Committee on Armed Services to authorize these additional resources was unanimous and bipartisan, and it is a significant statement on the troubling state of our military today.
“My friends, for too long, our nation has asked our men and women in uniform to do too much with far too little. Much of the blame lies with the last administration, but we in Congress cannot escape responsibility. Our military’s job is hard enough, but we are making it harder through continuing resolutions, unpredictable funding, and arbitrary spending caps that were put into law six years ago—before the rise of ISIS, before the current crisis with North Korea, before Russia’s return to aggression on the world stage, and before so many other dangerous developments.
“We have been warned that we cannot go on like this. We have been warned. Earlier this year, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, warned us, quote: ‘In just a few years if we don’t change the trajectory, we will lose our qualitative and our quantitative competitive advantage, [and] the consequences will be profound.’ Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis also warned us, saying, quote: ‘We are no longer managing risk; we are now gambling.’
“We are gambling, my friends. We are gambling with the lives of the best among us. And we are now seeing the costs—the tragic but foreseeable costs—of an overworked, strained force, with aging equipment, and not enough of it.
- “On June 17th, seven sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan.
- “On July 10th, a Marine KC-130 crash in Mississippi killed all 16 troops on board.
- “On August 5th, an Osprey helicopter crash off the coast of Australia resulted in the deaths of three Marines.
- “On August 15th, an Army helicopter crashed off the coast of Hawaii, with five soldiers presumed dead.
- “On August 21st, 10 sailors perished when the USS McCain collided with a tanker near Singapore.
- “On August 25th, an Army Black Hawk helicopter went down during a training mission off the coast of Yemen, and one soldier died.
- “Earlier this month in Nevada, two Air Force A-10 aircraft crashed into each other. Thank God the pilots safely ejected, but the planes were lost—at a cost of over $100 million.
“Just last week, as we debated this legislation, there were additional accidents:
- “Last Tuesday, one soldier died during helicopter training at Fort Hood;
- “Last Wednesday, an amphibious vehicle explosion at Camp Pendleton injured 15 Marines;
- “And last Thursday, a demolition accident at Fort Bragg killed one soldier and injured seven others.
“My friends, more of our men and women in uniform are now being killed in totally avoidable training accidents and routine operations than by our enemies in combat.
“Where is the outrage about this? Where is our sense of urgency to deal with this problem? The Congress can criticize this administration or the last administration all we want, and there is plenty of blame to go around. But the constitutional responsibility to ‘raise and support Armies’ and ‘provide and maintain a Navy’ is ours. How can we believe that we are meeting our responsibilities when young Americans in uniform are not receiving the necessary resources and capabilities to perform their missions? That blame rests with us, the Congress.
“I know that many of my colleagues agree. I have heard them, both Republicans and Democrats, speak for years about the harmful effects that sequestration is having on our military, and many other federal agencies with a national security mission.
“So how do we explain our failure to deal with this problem last week? We had an opportunity. This legislation was open for amendments under regular order for an entire week. There was an amendment offered by the Senator from Arkansas to repeal sequestration. The amendment was written in a bipartisan way and would have ended sequestration, not only for defense but non-defense spending as well. We had an opportunity to tell all of our men and women in uniform that the Senate, finally, was doing everything it could to support them. We had an opportunity, and we failed. Worse than that, we did not even try. We could not even agree to vote.
“This makes me so angry. But more than that, it makes me sad. It breaks my heart.
“How do we explain our failure to our men and women who are serving? How do we explain to Americans who are risking their lives for us that we could not summon the courage to take some hard votes? How do we explain that we could not come together and work together when it mattered most? How do we explain the signal that our inaction sends to all who are serving—that Congress has higher priorities than rebuilding our military? We should be ashamed of ourselves.
“For those of you who will soon vote for this National Defense Authorization Act, which will authorize the necessary resources to begin rebuilding our military, let me thank you. You can be proud that you are voting for a good piece of legislation. But this legislation is only part of the solution. We still have no path to actually appropriate the money that we are about to authorize. That requires a bipartisan agreement to adjust the spending caps in the Budget Control Act.
“For all of you who will join me in voting to authorize these vital, additional resources for our military, I would urge you also to join me in demanding and passing a bipartisan agreement so that we can appropriate those resources.
“This will require some hard work. It will require some teamwork and some trust in each other. It will require having the courage of our convictions. But in the end, it will require much less of us than the service and sacrifice we ask every day from our men and women in uniform, and which they so dutifully provide us.
“I do not want to have to call another grieving mother, or father, or spouse after their loved one perished in a mishap that might have been prevented if the Congress had done its job. So let’s find a way to appropriate the resources for our military that we will soon authorize. Our men and women in uniform deserve no less.”