Friday, July 04, 2008

MN-02 : Will John Kline respond to fuel prices and the DOD budget

Reflecting on this Independence Day has to make one think of the sacrifices that our military is making today and yesterday, but also an increased concern about tomorrow.

Independence Day may mark the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but it also a reminder of the efforts made by the Continental Army. The similarities to today’s military are appropriate … that Army was also a volunteer army … enlistment terms were extended to three years or "the length of the war".
Oh, yeah, it was also under-funded and under-equipped.

But today, that cannot be possible … could it ? ? ?

After all, President Bush signed the latest War Supplemental bill on June 30th stating
We owe these brave Americans our gratitude. We owe them our unflinching support. And the best way to demonstrate that support is to give them the resources they need to do their jobs and to prevail. The bill I sign today does exactly that. It provides necessary funds to support our troops as they conduct military operations in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in other theaters in the war on terror.

So how long before the budget gets blown ?

How about July 1st !

From the Defense Energy Support Center, we learn that military units in Iraq and elsewhere will see another hike in fuel costs -- the second midyear increase because of soaring oil prices –- as the cost for refined fuel used by troops will jump from $127.68 a barrel to $170.94 — an astounding 34 percent jump in just six months and more than double what the Pentagon was paying three years ago.

And the Pentagon’s response … a $400,000 a month increase in fuel costs won't affect ongoing military operations, it will require a "reprioritization of daily support activities."
Wow !
Shades of Don Rumsfeld and his re-assuring response to a soldier who questioned the shortages of equipment : "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

Let’s face it, our military has been shortchanged since the beginning – from personal protection like body armor shortages to MRAP (the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle), DOD has done a poor job. There were stories of not enough tourniquets, as the Baltimore Sun reported in 2005, quoting one infantry surgeon, "There is no good reason why wounded soldiers are continuing to die on the battlefield from extremity bleeding." Parents had to send batteries … and even tampons (to be used to treat wounds.)
Plain and simple, the government has failed to ensure rapid acquisition capabilities … which could be caused by unnecessary layers of bureaucracy.

Add to that failings, consider that the House Armed Services Committee was appraised last September that $6 billion worth of military contracts are under criminal review and $9 billion unaccounted for. John Kline (MN-02), who sits on that Committee, reacted ”So I am doubly appalled, triply, quadruply appalled at this day at the horrific conduct of commissioned officers, at a clear breakdown in leadership.

Other programs are also being questioned due to higher costs and delayed times … such as the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) which the CBO estimates will grow 60% over budget and may be unaffordable in the long term given the many other pressing needs facing the United States Army.

So, what will the military do to combat this budget shortage ? How will it balance the short term needs and the long term priorities ?

My immediate concern is that the soldiers in the field will suffer.
The current Congress needs to take action. John Kline is Minnesota’s sole representative on the House Armed Services Committee and thus far, he has allowed President Bush to fund the war through deficit spending. The rise in gas prices may have been unexpected, but it is inexcusable that Kline has allowed Bush to submit budgets without fully funding the ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan operations.

DOD has problems, but Congress needs to step up. Kline has been in Congress long enough to see the problems and to have taken action. He has failed --- too many opportunities have been missed. Oversight has been lacking. He has failed to push for a streamlined procurement system.

Kline’s attitude is demonstrated by his comment - “Well that's just the situation we find ourselves in" - is not responsible.
Kline attitude is reminiscent of Rumsfeld’s … it’s time for someone that may be closer to current active duty - and military - needs.
Voters need to hear from Steve Sarvi and reprioritize who represents the Second District !

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