The New Year brought a new assignment for hundreds of members of the Arkansas National Guard. Instead of celebrating the arrival of 2017, soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment of the 39th Infantry Brigade shared a few final moments with their loved ones before beginning a nine-month deployment.
I was honored to meet with these brave Arkansans and show my appreciation for their selfless service and sacrifice as they completed stateside training at Fort Bliss, Texas. The late January visit was a special occasion as the unit recognized its completion of mobilization and readiness to deploy in a historic casing of the colors and patch ceremony.
As these soldiers prepare to spend most of the year in the Horn of Africa in support of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), I'm committed to ensuring they have the resources and tools they need to be successful.
An important component of that promise includes providing our military with the predictability it needs to plan for its missions. That begins with passing individual appropriations bills. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I work with my colleagues to carefully craft these bills in order to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. These bills allow us to set priorities, make targeted investments and reduce waste.
Unfortunately, Congress in recent years has been relying on funding the government using continuing resolutions (CR). This inefficient way to govern hinders the ability of federal agencies to rein in spending and plan for the future.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, said during his recent Senate Budget Committee confirmation hearing that the "Department of Defense struggles to operate efficiently under a continuing resolution."
I've heard similar concerns from Pentagon officials and those were reiterated to me by Army officers in preparation for my trip to Fort Bliss. I'm concerned about the negative impacts this has on military capability and readiness.
A CR means that the Army is operating off of the previous year's budget level and last year's priorities. That's obviously very troubling in today's dynamic and challenging security environment.
Readiness-wise, CRs often bring about deferred and "stretched out" maintenance. This means extra wear and tear on critical equipment as well as the delayed delivery of needed gear to our deployed troops.
Funding government via a CR also restricts the Army from starting new programs, or canceling old and unneeded ones. It's forced to buy what was needed yesterday, not what is necessarily required for tomorrow. Lacking consistent funding or predictability, the Army is forced to buy less for more, undermining much needed operational capability.
The cumulative effect is staggering.
Mulvaney recommends "reinvigorating" the appropriations process and said he is hopeful Congress will have the support of the White House to accomplish this.
It is the basic responsibility of Washington to fund the government. We owe it to our service members, their families and all Americans. This is important to our national security and the soldiers like the Arkansas National Guard members who are depending on efficiency at the Department of Defense in order to successfully complete their mission.
Completing appropriations bills needs to be a priority this Congress and I urge my colleagues to work together to give our agencies the reliability they deserve.