Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman: Continuing Resolutions ‘Destructive to the Way We Do Business’
By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent
ARLINGTON, Va. — The nation’s second highest military officer delivered an unusually sharp rebuke to Congress on April 13, saying the American people “have lost faith” in the lawmakers for their consistent failure to perform their fundamental duty of funding the government.
Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also praised last week’s Tomahawk missile strike on a Syrian airfield, declaring that there is “no other country in the world that could do that with the professionalism” demonstrated by the two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that launched the missiles, and the commanders and intelligence personnel who supported them.
“What happened was executed quickly ... but executed professionally,” Selva said, expressing his pride in the captains of USS Ross and USS Porter and “every Sailor who had anything to do with” the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against the airfield linked to a sarin poison gas attack on Syrian civilians.
He said the detailed analysis of the strike indicated 57 of the 59 Tomahawks hit their designated targets and noted that the two destroyers were under the European Command authority but shifted to Central Command control for the attack, which was conducted 24 hours after the execute order.
But the primary focus of Selva’s opening remarks to an Air Force Association breakfast audience was a criticism of Congress for forcing the military, and the rest of the federal government, to operate under the restrictions of a continuing resolution (CR) for the ninth year in a row, this one now more than half way through the fiscal year.
He praised the military for being able to perform the Syrian strike “despite the weird things going on in this city.”
“We’re making history,” Selva said, noting that this marked the longest period the government had to run under a CR and the first time that “an administration changed hands under a continuing resolution.”
“The American people have lost faith in the Congress’ ability to do their job,” he said.
Selva said CRs “are destructive to the way we do business,” because they prevent the military from doing the things the defense authorizers told them to do, including buying more weapons and growing the force, and forces them to “buy things we do not want” because they lock in the previous year’s acquisition plans.
The general urged Congress to do two things before the CR expires April 28 — repeal the stop-gap funding measure and pass a full-year appropriations. He said he did not really care how much was in the budget, or if it included the $30 billion defense supplemental the administration submitted, but hoped it would provide the funds to do what the Pentagon was told to do in the authorization.
Asked about the Navy’s plan to stop buying Tomahawks, Selva said the Raytheon-produced missiles were “magnificent weapons that have served us well,” but he did not think they were the “weapon of the future.”
While giving a conditional defense of the cumbersome acquisition process, the general said part of the reason the new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier ran hundreds of millions of dollars over budget was because the shipyard had to rehire and train skilled workers who had been laid off under previous budget restrictions.