Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, speak on government spending at a Capitol Hill press conference on March 22, 2018.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry warned Wednesday that political infighting on Capitol Hill is having a harmful effect on national security, at defense budget debates and Congress’ strategic planning.
“I am distressed at what’s happening in parties,” said Thornberry, R-Texas, throughout a speech in the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We have always had fringe elements in your politics, but apart from the Civil War, those activities that bound us together happen to be stronger compared to forces pulling us apart.
“The centrifugal forces now are quite strong, here and elsewhere. And make no mistake, there are those outside our borders who are ready, willing, and more able than they have ever been before to fuel and exploit those forces to your detriment.”
Thornberry’s comments came while he was being honored using the think thank’s National Security Leadership Prize, built to recognize individuals “who put our nation’s interest before political considerations.”
As he’s many times lately, the chairman expressed concerns over evolving national security dangers from major power adversaries and rogue terrorist cells, but additionally voiced confidence that U.S. military might can counter those threats, if lawmakers don’t get in the way.
“We are designed for Russia and China and North Korea, of cyber, and artificial intelligence, and synthetic biology,” he said. “My concerns mostly are about us, the decisions we make or don’t make, even our ability to decide.
“Which, naturally, means our politics.”
Thornberry said he or she is optimistic that Congress will pass a full-year defense budget towards the end in the month, something they haven’t had the opportunity to do prior to start a whole new fiscal year by 50 percent decades.
But he was quoted saying struggles with defense spending caps and appropriate funding for military priorities are already exasperated by wider political battles within Congress in recent years, a trend he explained too frequently politicizes the Defense Department with techniques beyond ideological differences.
“It is usually tempting to voice an impression on every tweet or interview,” he was quoted saying. “There will probably be one faction or the other that may cheer. But when every utterance is a criticism, it dilutes the potency of all criticism.
“It all runs together. The public tunes out, divides into opposing camps. Having perspective on the is important ensures that we must be ready to husband our criticism for those activities that really matter. We don’t have to fuss about everything.”
Thornberry’s comments come as planning has already been underway for your fiscal 2020 defense budget debate set for next spring, after November’s midterm elections reshape Congress. His chairmanship rests on whether Republicans can retain control of the House in an election a large number of see as heavily influenced by controversies surrounding President Donald Trump.
But regardless of whether his party stays in power, the House Armed Services Committee looks to get significantly different next season, with one-sixth in the panel already announcing promises to leave the House, or having lost primary elections.
Thornberry did not directly reference the election in their remarks, but reinforced the need for congressional oversight of military needs regardless in the other political forces at work.
“Having that connective tissue healthy and functioning, especially on national security issues for these reach and complexity, specifically in a time of these turmoil, is a lot more necessary than previously,” he explained.