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Quiet revolt by those who know better

Sometimes, political edicts as opposed to negotiated law that survives political debate are so wrong to experts that they are forced to stand for principle. When that fails facing an onslaught of non-legal edicts that Congress won’t overturn or debate — their only recourse is to obey the letter of their oath of office. That oath of office for members of the military includes a significant caveat: “…according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” And that last is important when we’re discussing the National Defense Strategy. Nowhere in their oath of office does it say they have to obey not-yet-passed law, even if warned that the not-yet-passed law will, one day, be passed, “So you need to obey it now.”

The U.S. Army and now the U.S. Air Force have been told by the Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) that the 2020 budget includes demands of the president on where to spend the defense budget that will, according to many experts on both sides of the aisle, continue to prop up failing or even previously cut defense programs that exist only to prop up senators’ home promises of jobs and spending — usually in “red” districts. In short, this is money wasted and the Air Force, and the Army before it, want to devote these significant funds to working programs, not deadbeats. The Senate Appropriations Committee’s response: You may not defy the President’s wishes.

OK, what sums are we talking about? The U.S. Army reallocated funds in the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) away from waste moving some $31 billion to more on-going and productive areas based on expertise and not whim and cutting some $15 billion in legacy or underperforming acquisition programs (many of which were dead anyway). SAC called that “a clear disconnect” of the president’s wishes for 2020.

The Air Force in a program they ironically (and perhaps deliberately mockingly) called “Night Court,” is shifting $35 billion in its next five-year programs to better help the Air Force to align its activities with the real and formalized National Defense Strategy.

Congress’ response? Given that these future budget items have not yet been codified into precise law beyond the armed services’ overall mandate to uphold the National Defense Strategy, all Congress can do is demand a full accounting and a timeline of how and where and when these reallocations of future funds will be made precisely. And, you can be sure, those powerful senators on the SAC will fight for every penny sent to their home states in an election year, even if that is all wasted taxpayer money.

Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.