Short-term spending no way to govern
Published 3:00 am Thursday, May 4, 2017
Last week negotiations continued on a comprehensive appropriations bill to fund the government. In order to prevent a government shutdown and give negotiators more time, Congress passed and the President signed a continuing resolution extending current funding levels for one week.
Though sometimes necessary to prevent a lapse in critical services, these short term, stop-gap funding extensions are no way to govern. One of the primary reasons I joined the House Appropriations Committee was to fight for more responsible spending policies that set our nation on a more sustainable course. That can only occur by enacting new appropriations laws – not by extending old funding levels.
A prime example of why it is so important for Congress to enact a comprehensive appropriations bill is the effect on our military. As you may know, I serve on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee that has jurisdiction over our military spending. Funding the government by short term extensions takes away the Pentagon’s ability to plan for the future. With everything going on in the world right now, we absolutely should not tie the hands of our military in this way.
Properly funding defense also has a significant local impact. Alabama’s Second District has a large military footprint with key installations like Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and Fort Rucker, as well as several major defense-related industries. All are impacted by military funding policies.
For example, the most recent Defense Appropriations bill passed by the House includes $187 million for the procurement of 28 Lakota helicopters, which are the primary aircraft used for training at the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker. The bill contains $450 million for the Air Force’s cyber security efforts, of which the Air University’s Cyber College at Maxwell Air Force Base plays an integral part.
Our appropriations bill also fully funds the F-35 program, specifically funding the procurement of 74 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. As you probably know, the Montgomery-based 187th Fighter Wing is on the short list for being assigned this next-generation fighter jet, which would be a major development for the River Region and the entire state. The Air Force will make its final decision about where to assign the F-35 later this summer, so right now I am working alongside my colleagues in the Alabama Congressional delegation to make our case to decision makers for why Montgomery and the 187th are an ideal fit.
Serving on Defense Appropriations puts me in a better position to advocate on behalf of Montgomery and the 187th Fighter Wing. To be clear, this is the Air Force’s decision. They are going to select the unit they believe is right for the mission. My job is to help make the case for why the 187th is a great candidate and to make sure the playing field is even.
A few years ago, we had a situation in which the Air Force was going to relocate the 908th Airlift Wing out of Maxwell. That would have been devastating to the Montgomery community, so our Congressional delegation got to work. When we checked the numbers, it was clear a mistake had been made on cost saving estimates, so we called them on it. That was instrumental to keeping the 908th in Montgomery, and we even gained an aircraft. That’s the kind of role the Congressional delegation can play in decisions like these.
If the F-35 does come to Montgomery, it won’t be because of any politician. It will be because of the hard work and professionalism of the men and women of the 187th Fighter Wing.
Before we can land the F-35 at Dannelly, Congress has to actually fund the program. The same is true for programs affecting Maxwell and Fort Rucker. That’s why passing this comprehensive appropriations bill is so important. I am optimistic Congress can get that done this week.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.