The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing today on the 2014 National Defense Panel Report,  which was released in July of this year. During the opening remarks, Reps. Buck McKeon, R- Calif., and Adam Smith, D-Wash., lauded the bipartisan nature of the committee. Both believed that the importance of defense policy demanded that members work together year in and year out to ensure that things get done.

Thus, it was only appropriate that the hearing was to discuss the recommendations of bipartisan National Defense Panel (NDP) report. The bipartisan nature of the NDP can’t be over stated. The NDP is made up of 10 members who are selected by the secretary of defense, and the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, to assess the state of our national defense posture. The panel members agreed that “American military forces will be at high risk to accomplish the nation’s defense strategy in the near future.”

So what were the key recommendations of the 2014 NDP Report?

  1. Budget cuts on defense must end and the budget should be returned to the FY2012 budget proposed under Secretary Robert Gates;
  2. The two-war force sizing construct must be a cornerstone of U.S. strategic planning;
  3. Military readiness is degrading and must be addressed immediately; and
  4. The force size proposed in the 2014 QDR is too small.

Those who work closely on this issue, whether Democrat or Republican, agree that that the state of the U.S. military has been and continues weakening due to severe budget cuts over the past several years. However, the question remains if the greater Congress will take these warnings to heart.

Congress will have to act on several important pieces of legislation that will have a significant impact on defense. First, is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has been mainly crafted behind closed-doors but will be shortly released for consideration by Congress. The NDAA sets spending policies for the Department of Defense, and is so important that Congress has passed it for 53 years straight.

Secondly, Congress must address the appropriations bill for the remainder of FY 2015. A continuing resolution will limit the ability for DOD to execute on plans and programs, thus Congress’s ability to pass a spending bill will greatly impact the effectiveness of the military this year. Lastly, is the confirmation of the next secretary of defense. While the White House has yet to announce their nominee, Congress should see to it that the nominee takes the recommendations of the NDP seriously.