On Tuesday, 12 December, President Trump signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This defense bill authorizes almost $700 billion to the Defense Department; $634 billion to the base defense budget and $66 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.
Among the specific provisions, $26.2 billion goes to shipbuilding, $10.1 billion to purchase 90 F-35s, and $2.2 billion for Army ground vehicles.
While many of the provisions are big-picture programs like the F-35 and updated ground vehicles, many elements of the bill will affect Service Members directly. Most notably is a 2.4% pay raise, the highest since 2010. It authorizes the creation of a database for training, helping veterans receive certifications and licenses based on their military experience.
Dependents and retirees will also see some changes. Tricare (the government provided insurance to military members, retirees, and their families) will have an increase in copays. This, however, does not apply to disabled veterans and their dependents, or dependents of service members who died while in service. Furthermore, military spouses who have to get new professional certifications or licenses when they move can receive a $500 rebate.
As mentioned in our previous article on the Civilian Marksmanship Program, 8,000 to 10,000 surplus M1911s were waiting for approval to transfer. Now that the 2018 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) has been signed, transfers can begin, and shooters and collectors alike can start keeping an eye out for M1911s to hit the CMP website.
The Bigger Picture
The NDAA means a lot more than just additional money for troops and a chance to own a piece of surplus weaponry. It represents overall growth of the military. The defense bill provides for a troop increase of about 20,000. The Army is expected to grow by 7,500, the Navy by 4,000, and the Air Force and Marines by 4,100 and 1,000 respectively.
The military (and military funding especially) operates much like a pendulum. When the drums of war beat, the size of our military grows. When the public, or the White House, calls for a change of pace the military shrinks. The cycle repeats itself conflict after conflict, president after president. As the Korean War (technically) came to a close, President Eisenhower cut spending. As he withdrew from Vietnam, President Nixon cut spending. As the Cold War began to wind down, President Reagan cut spending. The trend was followed by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Much like his predecessors, when President Obama saw a conflict coming to an end, he shrank the force. Unlike his predecessors, President Obama’s cuts came when the War on Terror was still very much alive, and the arbitrary reduction in military strength and presence created a power vacuum that we are now dealing with today.
Cuts are one side of the pendulum swing. We, as a Nation, reduce our military strength when we no longer see or want to see, the need for a large, strong military. The unfortunate side-effect is that when that need returns, we find ourselves unprepared and attempt to rapidly solve the problem. How? We throw money at it and lower recruitment standards.
We saw this during the tenure of President Bush the Younger. During what has become known as “The Surge” recruitment standards were lowered to enable a sudden and dramatic increase in troop strength. When recruitment standards are lowered, individuals who have no business putting on a uniform are sent to the front line. Substandard recruits become troops.
Look no further than the case of Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl enlisted in 2008, during the height of The Surge. He was a Coast Guard washout who required a waiver to enlist in the Army. Roughly 20% of recruits that year received waivers that, like Bergdahl, would have otherwise prevented them from joining the Armed Forces. Bergdahl, as Liberty Nation has discussed at length, should never have been allowed in the Army, but in the name of rapid troops increases the ends justified the means.
Furthermore, the wanton spending of the early days of the Global War on Terror gave the Pentagon the idea that it had a near limitless pot of money to throw at problems and conduct pet projects. Loyal Liberty Nation readers will well remember the consistent reporting on fraud, waste, and abuse within the Department of Defense. Although the DoD is finally being audited, the damage done by the undisciplined spending of the 2000s has created bad habits; and even worse, corruption within the military-industrial complex.
As we grow our military, we must pay close attention to the mistakes of our past. We must not lower recruitment standards; we must not allow undisciplined spending to rule the day. The United States Government must not forget that it is accountable to the American People. Our tax dollars fill its war chests, and our sons and daughters march into battle on its orders.
We can not afford to repeat our missteps. Substandard recruitment makes for substandard troops, and substandard troops cost lives.