Rep. Byrne: Congress Must Invest in Navy Despite Challenges
By CHRIS BENNETT, Special Correspondent
ARLINGTON, Va. — Acknowledging the challenges that the new 115th Congress faces in the upcoming year, Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., rejected the notion that one must either be a budget hawk or a defense hawk.
“You can be both of those things at the same time,” he told an audience Jan. 11 at the Surface Navy Association’s National Symposium.
“I worry that we’re beginning to accept continuing resolutions as some sort of ‘new normal’ and we have got to push back against that,” Byrne said noting that the limited funding measures ultimately result in higher costs to the taxpayer.
Byrne said he is very hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump will request a supplemental funding bill to address defense shortfalls resulting from the continuing resolution currently funding the federal government through April 28. By that date, the government will have operated under funding limited to 2016 levels for more than half of fiscal 2017.
Looking forward to the next fiscal year, Byrne urged Congress to return to regular order and pass funding bills on time, saying it was the most basic function of the legislative branch. To do so, he said Congress must repeal the Budget Control Act, adding in response to a question from the audience that the number of representatives and senators willing to repeal sequestration is increasing.
“We got to get to 218. And we’re building that … there’s a growing number of us that see it,” he said.
However, Congress faces a very busy schedule and repealing the Budget Control Act while maintaining regular order will be a tough task.
Byrne said that he agrees with President-elect Trump and the recent Navy Force Structure Assessment that the fleet needs to have 350 or more ships, but bluntly acknowledged that funding will be an issue. The funding needed to build the fleet from its current size of 274 ships would greatly exceed current spending levels and be above the budget caps imposed by sequestration.
However, he argued that growing the U.S. Navy was important enough to warrant the increases.
“When I hear from some of my colleagues that we should look at defense spending as we look at every other part of the budget I say, ‘No, we should not.’ It is fundamentally different and fundamentally more important,” Byrne said.