Soon, the House will consider a bill to fully fund Defense Secretary Mattis’ budget request for this year. The secretary and other defense leaders have called on Congress to pass this funding bill in order to preserve the American military’s primacy in the world. It’s also needed to repair the damage of years of neglect and under-funding that has resulted in a military readiness crisis that comes with a real human cost. These numbers tell the story:
80: American service members killed in accidents and training exercises in 2017, according to the House Armed Services Committee – nearly four times the number lost in combat that year.
2: American soldiers lost in an Apache crash during a training exercise in January.
7: American service members killed in a non-combat related helicopter crash in Iraq last week.
2: U.S. Naval aviators killed in a fighter jet crash off the coast of Key West last week during a training flight.
Each of these numbers represent lives sacrificed in defense of freedom and our nation. Sadly, some of these deaths may have been preventable. The United States is blessed with the best, most courageous fighting force in the world. But these accidents are part of a startling and unacceptable readiness crisis – a symptom of a depleted, under-equipped, and under-trained military.
Funding to strengthen and modernize our military was not a priority in the last administration. This has left us with the smallest Army since before World War II, the smallest Navy since before World War I, and the smallest and oldest Air Force in our history.
Fortunately, the legislation coming this week will begin to reverse the damage done. It will allow us to replace and upgrade equipment that is beyond repair, restore needed training, and give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines what they need to do the job:
61 billion: the increase in funding for our military this year to begin reversing the damage of the last decade.
15: the years since an annual increase in defense spending this large, dating back to the start of the war on terror.
2.4: the percent increase in pay for our troops, the largest in eight years.
As Speaker Ryan said this morning, “We can’t keep asking our service members to go above and beyond when we are leaving them under-prepared and under-equipped for the fight.