McCain Links Accidents to Budget Caps

Washington Report

(September 19, 2017) Caps on federal spending are responsible for a series of deadly accidents since June across the military, according to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Asked Sunday morning on “Face the Nation” about the deaths and injuries of more than 60 service members, including sailors, soldiers and Marines, from eight incidents in less than four months, McCain responded, “It’s a thing called sequestration and our failure over the last eight years to make sure our military is prepared, equipped, trained.”

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee was referring to caps created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 that limits spending equally across the federal government for both defense and nondefense programs.

When John Dickerson, the host of the CBS program, mentioned the accidents, including one last month in which 10 sailors aboard the USS John McCain died following a collision and one last week that killed one soldier and injured seven at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, McCain didn’t hesitate.

“Whenever you cut defense capabilities, the first thing that goes is training and readiness . . . because that’s easy enough to cancel,” he said. He added, “We are killing more Americans in uniform in training than we are in engagement with the enemy. That’s not acceptable.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis took a different view Monday when meeting with reporters at the Pentagon.

“It’s hard to believe that we could reduce flying hours and not have less capable [forces],” he said. “There’s a reason why we think we need a certain number of hours, that is set on data. But I am not willing to say right now there’s a direct line between sequestration and what has happened.”

He said the Pentagon is investigating the rash of accidents and will examine the role budget caps might have played.

McCain said the solution is adequate funding for the military and an end to sequestration. He said he called the families of sailors killed aboard the USS John McCain, a destroyer named for his father and grandfather.

“I’ll tell you, that is one of the most heartbreaking things that you can do,” he said. “And so if we’re going to ask young men and women to voluntarily serve in the military . . . our part of the bargain is to provide them as much as we can and as much as they need in order to operate in the most safe manner.”