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Senate NDAA Exacerbates Spending Crisis

by Nan Swift / /

NTU urges all Senators to vote “NO” on the Senate substitute to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This legislation rejects commonsense opportunities to reduce wasteful spending and perpetuates poor fiscal practices that have become the hallmark of Congress’ approach to national defense policies. In doing so, the Senate’s NDAA exacerbates our growing spending crisis.

For more than five years, former Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen has been sounding the alarm on the threat our debt poses to national security. Still, Congress and the Committees responsible for setting the policies that guide our national security continue to ignore this warning by doubling down on eminently avoidable wasteful spending.

Making full use of a base budget authorization $30 billion over the budget caps, this legislation repeatedly exceeds the spending and procurement requests made by the Pentagon for FY18. It authorizes an additional 2 KC-46A tankers, 12 MC-130J aircraft, 5 additional ships, and 24 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, to name a few. The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly raised concerns about the troubled F-35 program, as its life-cycle costs continue to rise, performance problems abound, and only this summer an entire wing was grounded due to oxygen issues. Authorization for these and other unrequested funds tops $10.5 billion. Congress should be more mindful of Pentagon requests for major programs to ensure Services have the resources necessary to execute their strategy and avoid wasteful spending.

In the same way, Congress should heed the advice of the Administration and end the futile Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX). The project is 41 years behind schedule, billions over budget, it has zero potential customers, and none of that is likely to change. Worse, according to the Department of Energy, approximately a quarter of the work already done will need to be re-installed on the taxpayers’ dime. The Senate NDAA authorizes an $80 million plus-up.

Negotiation of the FY18 NDAA was marked by assertions that the Department of Defense (DOD) needed a new direction, amid claims that past financial restrictions have inflicted serious damage to our national security. Those assertions are debatable, and many readiness concerns might have been assuaged by tough decision making and reprogramming funds to address that priority. Instead, this bill is more of the same unaffordable spending, seemingly devoid of strategic imperative. This legislation expands on past wasteful practices, making future reforms all the more difficult and our military less nimble.

Roll call votes on H.R. 2810 will be included in our annual Rating of Congress and a “NO” vote will be considered the pro-taxpayer position.