End budget caps says defense subcommittee chair

Rep. Randy Forbes, chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on seapower and projection forces, believes that sequestration is threatening to cripple national defense.

This isn't news in and of itself. But Forbes is far from being one of the more vocal defense hawks in Congress and is sounding the alarm at a time when it appears we are going to extend our committment in Afghanistan and may be gearing up to go back into Iraq to help defeat Islamic State.

Bottom line: We're not ready.

Washington Examiner:

Washington Examiner: In your view, what is the most difficult challenge facing the Navy today?

Forbes: The lack of predictability. The Navy is being asked to do long-term planning [to face future threats] but it's been given budgets that don't have any long-term predictability to them. Second, we've got to turn the curve lines around [by ending sequestration and increasing spending on the Navy] so that the dollars they have will be adequate for what our commanders will be requiring of them over the next several years.

Examiner: In President Obama's fiscal 2016 budget request, the Navy came out as a "winner" — more people and more ships — but those gains can't happen without a lift in sequestration caps. Are you still feeling confident that the armed services committees can convince non-defense committee members to raise the caps?

Forbes: I think what's important is when non-defense members look at our defense needs – if we ask them how much they want to spend, it is not as persuasive as if you ask them what it takes to defend the U.S. Then, clearly the answer you see is that we can't do it on these budget caps.

Examiner: What about reports that the fiscal conservatives on the budget committee are not amendable to raising the caps? What kinds of additional outreach are you planning?

Forbes: I can't say that's what I've been hearing. We are in the process of formulating some responses to make sure those caps are lifted. It would be incredibly dangerous for us as a nation if we [only] go to the [sequester cap] limits.

What [policymakers] need to ask is – what are they willing to give up? Are they willing to give up the Strait of Hormuz [because sequester cuts would limit the U.S. Navy's ability to guarantee freedom of movement there.] The CIA has said if we do, gas prices will go up to $7.50. Are they willing to give up the underwater cable, where 96 percent of banking transactions happen? Or our shipping lanes? If the answer is "no," then it's just math to see what you need to defend it.

Sequestration hasn't worked, and the only federal department that has really been affected has been defense. Since sequestration went into affect 4 budgets ago, about $55 billion dollars has been cut from the budget. Meanwhile, the total budget has increased from $3.5 trillion to $4 trillion for FY 2016.

With one dollar cut in defense for every non-defense dollar, the Pentagon has taken a big hit - especially in the budget's out years. Vital weapons system have been slowed down or cut completely. Readiness has suffered. The question Congress - especially Republicans - must answer is sequestration worth it?

The problem is that without sequestration, the president plans to raise spending by nearly 8% this year. It's the only brake on the president's profligacy and without it, the current deficit will rise substantially.

But the threat to America is real. Congress is going to have to make some hard choices this year in order to maintain budget sanity while still funding our national defense adequately.