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Ventura County Perspective

Politics Aside, Military Needs the Tools to Do Its Job

House vote on $12-billion spending bill is a show of support for men and women in uniform rather than backing for the president's policies abroad.

May 16, 1999|ELTON GALLEGLY | Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) represents most of Ventura County in Congress

In the past few weeks, Congress has voted on a number of bills and resolutions tied to our military action in Yugoslavia. I have voted consistently against committing our forces there. This week, Congress is scheduled to vote on final passage of nearly $12 billion in emergency funding to retool our military and enhance our fighting capability.

My votes have sent a consistent message: We shouldn't be fighting a war we haven't committed to winning with a military that has been severely weakened by years of neglect.

NATO launched the attacks against Yugoslavia without clear, achievable military goals, without overwhelming superior force and with the ground troops option already closed. By slowly escalating the war, we run a real risk of getting bogged down in an unending quagmire.

NATO's reason for taking action in Kosovo is honorable. Ethnic cleansing must be condemned. When feasible, the United States should take well-thought-out steps to stop it. Our military reactions should be swift and taken with overwhelming force. We have done the opposite in Yugoslavia.

In doing so, we further stretched our already paper-thin military resources. President Clinton has used the military abroad more times than all the administrations combined since President Johnson. He has called on the military more than 45 times. President Reagan used the military abroad 17 times. President Bush used it only 14 times.

Today, there are 265,000 American troops in 135 countries--including 50,000 in Korea and more than 23,000 in the Persian Gulf. The president promised to bring our troops home from Bosnia in a few months. That was four years ago, and 3,000 troops are still there. We also have troops in Haiti.

On April 27, the president called up reserve forces because we're running out of active military forces--one month into a "small" operation. We had to suspend enforcement of the no-fly zone over northern Iraq because we needed the planes in Yugoslavia.

And while we've increased the commitments of our military, we have decreased our commitments to our military. National defense is the only major federal spending category to decline in the past 10 years. Congress has added more than $30 billion to the president's defense requests since 1995, but even so real military spending has fallen.

We're running out of cruise missiles and satellite-guided bombs. The Pacific Fleet commander in chief, Adm. Archie Clemins, whose command includes our Ventura County bases, recently visited the Lemoore Naval Air Station. He found that 43% of the F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters were not flyable because they lacked key parts--including 61 jet engines. We don't have enough ammunition to adequately train our infantry. It's estimated that the Army will be short $3.5 billion in ammunition next year.

If hostilities were to break out elsewhere, it would be difficult to respond with adequate force.

The emergency appropriations bill Congress will vote on this week will make an important downpayment on years of military neglect. It would put $2.25 billion directly in the pipeline for spare parts, readiness, depot maintenance and recruiting, which military leaders said they needed even before Kosovo. It would put another $1.1 billion in a contingency fund for munitions and readiness needs. It would boost troop morale--at a time when we are asking them to do more with less--by providing $1.8 billion for military pay raises and retirement benefits.

The world is still a dangerous place. And whether or not I agree with our policy in Yugoslavia, the fact is we are there. It's imperative we give our soldiers, sailors and airmen the tools they need to carry out their orders.

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