House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is prodding his fellow lawmakers to reach an agreement on a fiscal year 2018 budget, saying that the lack of such a deal is worsening the military’s already severe readiness problems.
At his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill Jan. 11, Ryan said that too few planes, ships and soldiers are ready to deploy and that service members are dying as a result. For example, he said the two Navy destroyers involved in fatal collisions in the Pacific last year were aging ships with expired training certifications.
“Every day that goes by without adequate funding is another day we are pushing our military past the breaking point, and it is a shameful situation,” he told reporters. "We have a duty to address it."
Ryan said negotiators are making “good progress” toward preventing the return in FY 2018 of budget cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. But he indicated that the FY 2018 appropriations bills might not be finished by Jan. 19, when the continuing resolution (CR) that funds the federal government expires. Without an appropriations package, Congress will have to pass another CR – the fourth for FY 2018 -- to keep the government open.
A key sticking point in the negotiations is that Republicans want defense to get a bigger funding increase than non-defense programs, while Democrats favor “parity.”
Ryan plans to discuss his military readiness views further when he appears at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Jan. 18. That is the same day the readiness and seapower subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee are scheduled to hold a joint hearing on how the Navy intends to fix its readiness problems, including those that led to the deadly ship collisions (Defense Daily, Jan. 10).