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Rep. Buck McKeon's Foreign Policy Address

2:00 PM, Nov 15, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Despite what some on the left say today, the success of the Iraq surge is undeniable and our troops, along with their families, deserve great credit for their courage and sacrifice. Our military has done all that we have asked them to do in Iraq. Generals Petraeus and Odierno successfully built a security architecture that allows U.S. forces to ensure Iraqi security there through 2011.

The future U.S.-Iraq relationship remains uncertain, however. The U.S. “advise and assist” force presence expires December 31st next year. Will that continue? Will the U.S. continue to augment Iraq’s investment in its security forces? Cutbacks in aid and advisory plans could end any chance of an effective strategic partnership with Iraq and lose the war by default. This is something we cannot accept.

As Republican Leader—soon to be Speaker—John Boehner said this past August, “the hard truth is that Iraq will continue to remain the target for those who hope to destroy freedom and democracy. The people of that nation—and this nation—deserve to know what America is prepared to do if the cause for which our troops sacrificed their lives in Iraq is threatened.” Our military and civilian personnel in Iraq have answered the call of duty, now the Administration and the Congress must do the same.

Leadership in Budget

As elected officials, Members of Congress have a responsibility to ensure U.S. taxpayer dollars are not wasted on inefficient or redundant programs. I agree with Secretary Gates that we must scrutinize defense programs to ensure we are generating the most bang for the buck and that we must concentrate our limited resources on the highest priority programs.

Furthermore, I view it as the responsibility of the Armed Services Committee, through our annual defense law, to shift funds to higher national security priorities and promising technologies for the future, such as missile defense and means to counter anti-access threats.

Let’s remember one of the core responsibilities of the Congress—Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution says: “Provide for the common defense”...“to raise and support armies”...and “to provide and maintain a navy.”

I am extremely concerned that no matter what the intentions of Secretary Gates may be, the Administration and some in Congress will not allow the Secretary to keep the savings identified in his efficiencies initiative. Just this summer, the White House supported a teacher bailout bill—a domestic spending measure—that was funded in part with defense dollars.

Secretary Gates can only do so much from the Pentagon. Sustaining growth for the Department of Defense requires leadership from the White House and the Office of Management and Budget. Once savings from this efficiencies initiative are identified, what’s to stop them from taking this money, too?

Secretary Gates appears to share my concern. In August he stated, “...my greatest fear is that in economic tough times that people will see the defense budget as the place to solve the nation's deficit problems, to find money for other parts of the government... I think that would be disastrous in the world environment we see today and what we're likely to see in the years to come.”

I share the Secretary’s view that the growth in the Department’s topline is insufficient to address the future capabilities required by our military.           

One percent real growth in the defense budget over the next five years is a net cut for investment and procurement accounts.

A defense budget in decline portends an America in decline. It will undermine our ability to project power, strengthen our adversaries and weaken our alliances. This is a bipartisan view—not just one Republican’s opinion. The independent, bipartisan Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) panel appointed by Congress recognizes this fact. The co- chairmen of that independent panel, Bill Perry, the Secretary of Defense under President Clinton, and Steve Hadley, national security adviser under President George W. Bush, were clear on this point.

Their report states that our nation ‘cannot afford business as usual’, and warns of a ‘potential train wreck coming in the areas of personnel, acquisition and force structure.’ Significantly, the report offers a realistic view of the global security environment: that maintaining and growing our alliances will place an increased demand on American hard power and require an increase in our military’s force structure.

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