Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chiefs End "Wish Lists" for Unfunded Programs

According to the Congressional Quarterly, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will not give Congress formal lists of programs that were excluded from the president’s budget request that they would like to see funded. Officially known as the Unfunded Priorities Lists, the documents submitted have effectively been an extension of the Pentagon’s annual spending request for more than a decade.  The chiefs of the Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy have all confirmed that they will not submit a “wish list,” while the chiefs of the Army and National Guard Bureau have not confirmed.

The chiefs’ decisions are already fueling a debate about whether the defense budget is and will be sufficient in future years. House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon has argued that the lists provide an important tool for Congress to assess the adverse impact of budget cuts and where additional funds may assist the military. In addition, the chairman has asserted that increasing spending on a given program does not necessarily mean another need to be cut. Further, without the lists Congress will not be able to easily identify where money needs to be allocated. Many programs and projects could therefore be overlooked.

On the other hand, some see that the absence of the lists will not hinder the Total Force. Many feel that the budget is sufficient and aligns with the Pentagon’s new strategy. In fact, before they went before Congress, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey asked for lists from the chiefs. Therefore, the heads of the Pentagon are well aware of the concerns and needs of the military and prioritize those in the budget request. Furthermore, if the Unfunded Priorities Lists are not submitted, communication between the military and Congress will not shut down. There are other means for the military to address Congress (i.e. in testimony, hearings, etc.).

As a Reservist, how do you feel about the omission of the Unfunded Priorities List? Do you feel that Reserve needs will be overlooked? Or do you feel that Congress will be more efficient in addressing the military and the budget? Comment below with your opinions. 


Anonymous said...

I think what the Joint Chiefs are doing will hurt the overall force expecially the reserve component. I think the drawdown of are forces at a time when China is agressively growing its Military, and with Russia trying to build up its Military we are hurting our ability to defend ourselves should China or Russia exert themselves. From what I read of China's Navy and Airforce, they have advanced to the extent that they would be a formidable force to recon with.

COL Alfred M Diaz, USA (ret) said...

Recently, at a ROA Department of the Golden West (California & Nevada)Convention, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) informed us that the Sevice Chiefs are being forced by the SECDEF to sign nondisclosure agreements regarding their unfunded requirements lists. Congress has the Constitutional responsibility to raise and equip armies, and to maintain a navy. To me these nondisclosure agreements amount to contempt of Congress.

Anonymous said...

This action raises grave concern and triggers suspicion of the Joint Chiefs being 'muzzled' by someone in the chain of command above them. The Unfunded Priorities Lists have been an important means of conveying to the Congress those needs of each service that are not addressed in the President's budget. Situation unsat.

cavcol said...

Again this shows the contempt this administration has for the military. The SECDEF and Chairman of the JCS are just lackeys of the administration and are trying to cut off communication between the military and the various defense committees in Congress. I agree that this is contempt of Congress when the SECDEF requires a nondisclosure agreement from the Chiefs of the services. Congress should call for the immediate removal of the SECDEF for interfering with Congress' ability to make informed decisions about national defense. The reason for the non-disclosure statements is to keep cost down and not let member of Congress know if a new unfunded request will put money into their district. The SECDEF and the administration is afraid if Congress learns of the unfunded requests that Congress will tell the administration and the SECDEF to take a long march on a short pier. In essence Congress will act in the best interest of their particular district and not bend to the whims of the administration. This does not guarantee that the decision Congress' decision is in the best interest of national security. The most likely outcome is it is a decision of backroom negotiations of you scratch my back I will scratch yours and we will fund the program over the objections of the administration.