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Blog: SITREP - April 20th 2013


Location: Unknown

This has been a bittersweet week for me and let me explain why. My son Kyle graduated from flight training school at Ft. Rucker. For the last fifteen months, he's been participating in one of the worlds finest programs to train Black Hawk pilots. The skills and experience that he and his fellow trainees have learned will save lives out in the field. That's why the Army takes these programs so seriously. We count on these pilots to bring our kids into and out of harms way, to assist in emergencies, and to carry out one of the most fundamentally important logistical operations in the military. Like any father, seeing a son take on a challenge and conquer it is an awe inspiring experience. I couldn't be prouder of him -- and his two brothers. All three of them volunteered to serve in the United States military and for two parents who believe that service is important, it means an awful lot. The tough part of this week, though, was knowing that while my son is graduating from a rigorous training program, the future for training and equipment across the military is an open question. If you've been receiving this report for a while, you have undoubtedly heard me talk about the "sequestration" cuts and why I am so deeply concerned about them. A lot of people say, and rightly so, that the military has not had to face cuts in a long, long time and that as a result, there is a huge amount of waste and excess that they can do without. And as a general matter, that is absolutely true. But what these people don't realize in many cases, is that "sequestration" isn't the first round of cuts that the military has faced. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have seen the actions take -- and the results -- first hand. Last year, prior to "sequestration" a round of $400 billion in cuts was applied across the military. It was during that deep round of initial cuts that the most of the fat was removed, the hope-for-the-best research programs were eliminated, and the non-essential acquisition programs were brought to a halt. With "sequestration" coming right on the heels of those cuts, all of the low-hanging fruit is gone. What the military is having to cut now is meat and bone. And for some, that may be ok. But the reality is that we live in a huge world and America has a vested interest in being able to maintain some level of stability and predictability across that world. Right now, we are already seeing the real implications of "sequestration" on our security posture around the globe. Instead of having two aircraft carriers positioned in the Persian Gulf, we only have one. The second is back sitting in a port hoping that the Pentagon can figure out how to keep up with the maintenance. Being able to respond effectively to any aggression by Iran is important. What is equally important is being able to respond to aggression by China, for instance, while we are tied up in a skirmish with Iran. If the United States of America cannot respond to simultaneous military conflict on two fronts, there are real implications to that. Perhaps most importantly, our deterrent is greatly diminished. But aside from these issues, what concerns me the most, and what made this week so tough in a way, was knowing that in addition to scaling back our strategic military assets around the globe, the Pentagon is also scaling back on maintenance and training. In the worst case scenario, an armored personnel carrier that breaks down or catches on fire in the middle of a enemy controlled town turns into a certain death trap. We cannot allow that. In the best case scenario, we also have to recognize that skipping maintenance on military equipment isn't all that different from skipping oil changes in your car. You might pat yourself on the back for saving a few bucks by not making the trip to your mechanic, but when the engine seizes up a few years later and you're looking at having to purchase a new engine, those savings go right out the window. We always have to be careful to take the long view in managing the taxpayers' investments. There are places to save and there are places to make sure we're doing what is necessary. That is called prioritizing. And in my opinion, with "sequestration", we're doing just the opposite. In closing, let me just say that as concerning as all of these things are, the piece that I really cannot live with is the training. Our military is an all-volunteer force. These Americans make the commitment -- voluntarily -- to leave their families for months on end, to put themselves in harms way, and potentially to make the ultimate sacrifice for us. The idea that we would skimp on training -- the very thing that keeps our troops safe when facing the enemy -- I cannot even begin to describe my frustration with that. It is simply unacceptable and I am going to continue pushing my colleagues and the President to get this situation resolved in a responsible way. In the end, I can't do it alone, but I know that military families all across this country are seeing the same thing. It's important that their elected officials hear from them about this. Without the pressure from the American people, I'm worried that people will be too complacent to seriously address this issue. And that is what I count on you all for. As always, if you have anything that you think I should be aware of, please let me know. And if you know of any neighbors or friends with kids serving in the military, please feel free to share this email with them. I think it's important that they know what is going on and that somebody out there is trying to fight it.

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