We finally have an NDAA! This is exciting news for many, mainly because operating under a Continuing Resolution is detrimental to national defense, since it funds past priorities without updating our outlays in light of evolving events and challenges.
The FY 2020 NDAA includes some provisions that might excite us, such federal parental leave, more support for child care within the military, and a pay increase for the military to retain the best and increase social services. Other contributions are less than enthralling (a paragraph on firefighting foam?!?). As Chris Preble notes, one of the main failings of the current NDAA is ripping out any provisions to revisit the AUMFs passed after 9/11 and the Iraq War. Yet there are many other critical issues left untouched.
The key challenge is the executive branch can still pilfer funds for its pet projects, such as the border wall, that Congress has allocated for other means. This infringement on legislative oversight is troubling, and it is a symptom of the wider confusion over just how the Overseas Contingency Operations fund should be used. Continuing to authorize $71.5 billion for what amounts to a slush fund will be a decision we will look back on for decades with amazement. This financial black hole is not the place to stuff priorities that should be decided through the normal legislative process.
Funding the Space Force is a reckless effort in expanding bureaucratic waste. Instead, the effort should continue to be housed completely in the Air Force, not as the “Sixth Armed Force.” While there is a need for a civilian agency to regulate space travel and satellites, especially from the cyber security perspective, this step is a few years away and should run by a civilian agency, not a new military branch.
The U.S. continues to fail to place any restrictions on funds allocated to Saudi Arabia, which is troubling considering the recent attack in Pensacola and their continuing involvement in the War in Yemen, not to mention the long forgotten Khashoggi murder. The ongoing proxy war with Iran only inflames tensions in the region and jeopardizes American security structures. Emboldening Saudi adventures harms our security and endangers regional security.
We can leave on some positive steps, such as steps to prohibit the recognition of Crimea as Russian territory, and an expansion and update of strategies to counter influence by Russia and China. Overall though, we must stop funding priorities agnostically. We fund the military during a time of peace as if it is on a war footing. Given recent revelations about our war in Afghanistan, it’s a concern that we have not sought to move past this disaster and turn the page towards the future.