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November 06, 2015

The Oklahoman: Sen. Jim Inhofe: No choice but to vote against budget

Soon after President Obama proposed his fiscal year 2016 budget to fund our nation's defense, then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey testified before Congress stating the budget places our military at the “lower ragged edge of manageable risk in our ability to execute our defense strategy; we have no slack.”

Since this warning, the president has sent our troops on more contingency missions than his budget forecasted. To include his most recent announcement to put boots on the ground in Syria, the president has also added troop rotations to Eastern Europe in response to Russian aggression, deployed additional forces to Iraq, announced he would keep 9,800 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and deployed forces to Cameroon to fight Boko Haram.

Congress sent to the president a National Defense Authorization bill that fully funded defense by using an increase in the Overseas Contingency Operations account. Obama and many Democrats called this a “gimmick,” and the president vetoed the bill for the first time for reasons beyond the scope of the legislation.

The president's true motive was to handcuff defense spending in order to leverage an increase in domestic spending. Congress, seeing a vital need to provide for our national security, couldn't navigate another foreseeable path forward other than to pass the budget deal last week that included an additional $35 billion for each defense and nondefense portions of the federal budget. Even then, this deal still fell $5 billion below the president's defense budget proposal.

I have long been opposed to the discriminatory nature of the Budget Control Act that has forced defense, which makes up less than 16 percent of the federal budget, to be treated equal to nondefense funding. It has allowed the president to win on advancing his liberal domestic agenda every time our nation hits a crisis that demands a better resourced military.

Let us not forget that even prior to sequestration, the president had already cut defense by $487 billion while increasing spending on his domestic pet projects by 30 percent.

Because of this dangerous cat-and-mouse game, our military consists of the smallest ground forces since 1940, the smallest Naval fleet since 1915, and the smallest Air Force since its inception. Furthermore, it is evident from Russia's aggression in Eastern Europe and involvement in Syria, Iran's leadership advancements across the Middle East, and China's aggression in the South China Sea and cyber attacks on American citizens, that our enemies no longer respect us.

To make matters worse, the Heritage Foundation's new 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength found the United States doesn't have the force structure to meet a two-major regional contingency requirement, much less meet its current demands effectively.

I had no choice but to vote against a budget deal that solidified the president's legacy of disarming America. While a new Republican majority should have taken a harder line in support of our troops, it ultimately will take a new administration, and years of increased investment in our military, to return to President Ronald Reagan's vision of peace through strength.

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