Cole: Military Readiness Requires Time and Money

Cole: Military Readiness Requires Time and Money

Tom Cole

There are a number of initiatives and policy questions to address in the first one hundred days of a new administration. However, the defense of our nation is among the first and most important of government’s duties, and the state of Oklahoma rightly takes tremendous pride in preparing the military for any fight so that we may all live in peace.

In the coming weeks, Congress must appropriate the necessary funds for the Department of Defense or it will not be able to achieve the readiness, modernization and force structure required to confront threats around the globe. As General Mattis said during the Secretary of Defense Senate confirmation process, “I will be guided by the principle that the military must look at every week as its last week of peace if it is going to be sufficiently prepared for the unexpected.”

Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committee received testimony this month that only three of the Army’s 58 Brigade Combat Teams are ready to fight; 53 percent of Navy aircraft cannot fly; the Air Force is 723 fighter pilots short; and the Marine Corps needs 3,000 more troops. Our military has been churning hard for over a decade and a half, and it takes both time and money to ensure that a reset of equipment and forces is successful.

To get back on track requires not just the money to fix equipment but the time to train with equipment in larger integrated military units. The combination of time and money is what is needed to improve our war-fighting capabilities and meet “full spectrum readiness.”

Additional constraints, such as the implementation of the government-wide hiring freeze or lack of funding, makes it even more difficult for the services to catch up. The maintenance and technical operations conducted at Tinker Air Force Base and around the country cannot afford to be delayed.

Currently, there are over 560 positions affected by the Executive Order hiring freeze at Tinker Air Force Base. With the hiring freeze in place, the hiring of skilled technicians and next-generation weapons sustainers grinds to a halt, promotions or transfers are put on hold, recruitment of personnel with critical skills is hampered and core workload throughputs are delayed, increasing overhead costs. Maintenance and sustainment work, is dependent on an efficient cycle that begins with finding, training and retaining experienced workers to ensure the warfighter has the equipment that they need. More importantly, efficiencies are lost and costs increase immediately and for the long-term. The services widely recognize the impact the hiring freeze is having on our military’s ability to meet their mission requirements.

I look forward to working with General Mattis and the President to put in place a defense budget that accelerates the restoration of our military. While Congress completes its appropriations process for the rest of Fiscal Year 2017 and for Fiscal Year 2018, it is imperative that our team of uniformed service members and the civilian workforce can continue working with certainty. I am committed to providing our military the necessary funding to do the job and the time needed to complete their mission.

James Bell

James Bell

James Bell serves as publisher and editor of Moore Dispatch.

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