Congress narrowly averted a government shutdown last week when it passed a continuing resolution – a stop-gap spending bill that finances the government for a little over a month. What does this really mean? It means that we are spending at previous levels of government while important investment bills for the future are frozen, hamstringing the federal government in carrying out its number one job: to provide for the common defense. But the problem is bigger, and goes back further, than this week. Our Defense Department is underfunded and spending priorities are misaligned; multi-year appropriations are wildly out of touch with real inflation numbers; Congress treats weapons contractor behemoths like they are a de facto member of the bureaucracy. And the proverbial icing on the cake? The Pentagon is not only lagging in relation to prior output, it is lagging behind China. The investment in military and defense preparedness with our number one threat should never be inverse, but China is steadily investing, while the US is stagnating and slipping.
Mackenzie Eaglen is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where she works on defense strategy, defense budgets, and military readiness. She is a member of the board of advisers of the Alexander Hamilton Society, a member of the steering committee of the Leadership Council for Women in National Security, one of the 12-member US Army War College Board of Visitors, and a member of the Commission on the Future of the Navy.