McCain: 'We lied to the American people'

By Justin Doubleday Lee Hudson Tony Bertuca / September 15, 2016 at 10:31 AM

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) spoke this morning of the collective responsibility Congress bore for being unable to compromise on the future of government spending, forcing lawmakers to continue to stick to the spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

"We lied to the American people," McCain said during a hearing with the military service chiefs.

"The Budget Control Act and sequestration have done nothing to fix our national debt," he continued. "This is just math. And what’s worse, the people we have punished for our failure are none other than the men and women of our armed services, and many other important agencies.”

McCain expressed dismay at the high likelihood of an eighth continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the current fiscal year.

"Far too often, Washington is governed by crisis and stopgap deals like continuing resolutions, omnibus spending bills, and episodic budget agreements that are a poor substitute for actually doing our jobs," he said.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, who testified at the hearing, hammered the government's reliance on continuing resolutions.

In written testimony before a Sept. 15 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Richardson wrote: "The impact of continuing resolutions is significant." He compared the Navy's budget to the size of a "Fortune 10 Company" operating on "what amounts to three fiscal quarters per year."

"This compromises our mission, and drives inefficiency and waste into all that we do," Richardson's testimony states. "For example, a short term continuing resolution requires us to break what would otherwise be single annual contract actions into multiple transactions."

The additional contracts results in a 20 percent increase in the number of funding documents the Navy must produce for activities like base support and facilities maintenance, Richardson continued. He added that it also "fails to take advantage of savings from contractors who could better manage their workload and pass on lower costs to the Navy."

The threat of a continuing resolution has become expected, and a short-term continuing resolution of three months or less is "undesirable but manageable," Neller wrote in his testimony.

However, a continuing resolution lasting longer than three months "dramatically" increases risk for the Marine Corps and disrupts the service's ability to execute a five-year budget plan, according to Neller's testimony.

McCain laid the blame at the feet on Congress and President Obama.

"Five years ago, rather than confronting the real driver of our ballooning debt, which is the unsustainable growth of entitlement spending, we looked the other way," he said. "We failed to make tough choices and necessary reforms, and the result was the Budget Control Act, which imposed arbitrary caps on discretionary spending, including defense spending, for a decade. And when we failed to fix the real problem, we doubled down on these reckless cuts with mindless sequestration."

With budget debates "looming ahead," McCain said he hoped Congress and the White House would find "the courage we’ve lacked for five long years . . . the courage to put aside politics, to chart a better course, to adopt a defense budget worthy of the service and sacrifice of those who volunteer to put themselves in harm's way on our behalf."