Thornberry: ‘rebuild and reform’

House Armed Services chair joins McCarthy for visit to China Lake, IWV

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Thornberry: ‘rebuild and reform’“What we’ve got to do is rebuild the military. That means turning the defense budget around. It also means making sure we are spending money on the right things,” House Armed Services Committee Chair Mac Thornberry told scores of listeners during his address last week to China Lake Alliance members and guests.

“Bottom line is, it is fundamentally wrong at every level to ask someone to go out and perform a mission for which they are not fully prepared or fully supported with the best equipment this nation can provide.”

Following his tour of China Lake with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Thornberry talked about the erosion of the defense budget during a time when global threats are spiking.

During the 1960s defense spending commanded 50 percent of the federal budget. Over the years, compulsory funding to entitlement programs has reduced discretionary spending to about a third of the budget — with defense now accounting for less than 15 percent.

“The military budget has been cut 20 percent since 2010,” he said. “The world is not 20 percent safer than it was then. We are not asking less of the men and women who serve. So what we’ve done is damaged the military.”

However, collaborative efforts of elected, Navy and?DOD?leadership over the years are credited with protecting the local mission — including unlocking hiring during the DOD hiring freeze, procuring funding for development of solutions against emerging threats and expediting capabilities for the warfighter as new threats emerge.

“On the airplane out yesterday, my staff had prepared for me a list of the different legislative provisions that we have passed in the past couple of years related to the China Lake facility or the missions that go on here — it was a pretty long list,” said Thornberry.

“I’m no dummy — if the majority leader [invites you to China Lake], I’m going to find a way to say yes. But the truth is I’m glad to see first hand and have at least a brief opportunity to visit with some of the outstanding people who serve here, who serve our country, and to get a feel for the incredible work that goes on.”

He also thanked the community for their investment in the Navy’s mission. “I know, because I get to visit lots of bases, lots of military installations,” he said. “To do the work on the base requires community support. So I want to thank y’all for what you do to support their work.”

That support is more important than it has ever been, he said. “And I can tell the difference when the community support works and when it’s more lackadaisical.”

Thornberry said that the cohesive leadership at all levels of government — underscored by the presence of both McCarthy and Assemblyman Vince Fong for the visit — will ultimately help protect the facility.

“A lot of what we do in the Armed Services Committee is have classified briefings about what the bad guys are doing,” he said. “So that is why, as my wife says, sometimes I come home in a very bad mood.

“But I think I saw most of the answer to what the bad guys are doing this morning — our young, incredibly smart and committed people who, if given the right resources and getting the bureaucracy off their necks, can find the answers to just about any problem.”

But while the human element appears to be thriving, other challenges continue to loom.

“I hate to say this, particularly in the shadow of China Lake, but the Navy has testified before us that nearly half the planes the Navy has cannot fly today because they are waiting on maintenance or spare parts.” And the reports from other services are equally bad.

“So we’ve got a lot of repair work to do to make up for the damage that has been done out of several years of sequestration.”

He pointed to the F-35 as an example. “If we take another 20 years to build the next airplane, it’s going to be outdated by the time it gets here. The world is moving too fast. Technology is moving too fast. Our enemies are moving too fast for us to move at the speed of 1950s bureaucracies.”

The brilliant young minds employed by DOD need to be able to perform at full speed without unnecessary roadblocks.

At the same time, the committee has focused on shrinking the size of the Pentagon — reducing the number of ranking military officials and staff and shaving costs off programs and services.

“But the whole purpose is to continue to get the best quality people and to make it so they can perform for the nation to the best of their God-given abilities,” he said.

“Rebuild and reform — those are our key pillars. And we are going to keep pushing on both of them so that facilities like this can help make us all safer and help make the men and women who serve in the military safer.

“You all are a part of that. Thank you for what you do.”

Pictured: Rep. Mac Thornberry (right) speaks with China Lake Alliance Executive Director Scott O’Neil during last week’s visit. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-04-07