Congress will work with the Defense Department to find cost savings and prioritize funding for critical equipment needs for future budget cycles, a Senate Armed Services Committee member said Oct. 4.
Following the passage of the $716 billion fiscal year FY’19 defense appropriations bill, the bipartisan committee needs to continue “pressing onward and upward” to ensure the U.S. military is properly funded, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said at a breakfast event with reporters at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. But lawmakers will be looking for ways to maximize current funds to keep costs at a realistic level, she said.
“That’s by focusing the additional dollars on … things that are necessary, things that will protect our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, and focus less on the things that don’t make sense,” she said.
Ernst, an Army Reserve and National Guard veteran who is the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate, noted that efforts such as cyber-proofing surveying equipment serve as examples of interesting technology that may come at the expense of more widespread priorities such as increased armor or an additional vehicle.
“I believe we need to bolster our DoD — and by that, our dollars — but there are programs that exist within DoD too that can be eliminated or scaled back,” she said. “If they don’t make sense, let’s think about it.”
The Pentagon is currently undergoing its first-ever audit, an effort that will also help the department find additional cost savings for future capability needs, Ernst added. The comptroller’s office is already finding discrepancies, and is working to correct any issues it finds immediately, she added.
“We won’t wait until the audit is complete before we start making corrections,” she said. “With those corrections come savings of dollars. So, through that effort, I do think that we will be able to find ways of leveraging those dollars.”
Lawmakers must continue to their part to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and appropriations bills on time to ensure smooth funding cycles for the military, Ernst added.
“We are wasting dollars because DoD can’t move ahead with new contracts to modernize equipment. They end up spending billions of dollars on outdated programs that we shouldn’t be supporting anymore,” she said. “That has been one of the biggest wastes of dollars that we have seen in past years.”
Ernst noted that midterm elections in November will truly determine whether Congress can continue the upward trajectory of defense budgets, and as long as Republicans can maintain a majority in one or both of the chambers, the chances are more likely.
“If we don’t maintain a majority in … either of the bodies, I think that task becomes much more difficult,” she added.