For decades the Executive branch of the government has been usurping the powers and responsibilities of the Legislative branch. Without getting bogged down in legalities, Congress is charged with the power to declare war, set funding, and exercise oversight of the military. Congress has shamefully abdicated those powers for many decades and the results have been illegal Executive actions (by Presidents of both parties but on a scale previously unimaginable by the current President), runaway debt, out of control military expenditures, highly questionable military acquisition programs, and a politicized military leadership that is doing more harm to the country than good.
Very recently, Congress has begun to take minor steps to restore some of their Constitutional powers. They have started to issue directives to the military (slapping down the Navy’s Aegis cruiser retirement plans, for example), demand reports on questionable programs, reapportion funds among various acquisition programs, and, in general, exercise some oversight.
Predictably, the Executive branch has not taken kindly to this. From the Defense News website comes this example.
“Speaking at the annual Sea-Air-Space conference outside of Washington, Carter [Defense Secretary Aston Carter] focused on what he called “unhelpful micromanagement” from the Hill, whether it be over the Senate’s plan to eliminate the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L), the House’s plan to end wartime contingency funding in April, or the refusal to allow the Pentagon to shut down installations round the country.”
“I would respectfully suggest that the informed expert judgment of the civilian and military leadership at the Department of Defense which is embodied in our budget proposal should receive greater support and be subject to less micromanagement,” Carter said.”
First, let’s be very clear that Congress has not only the right but the responsibility to exercise the oversight that Carter views as “micromanagement”.
Second, as I pointed out, Congress has been remiss in exercising those responsibilities for some time and it’s long overdue for them to begin managing the budget and the military whether at a “micro”, macro, or whatever level they so choose.
Third, I would remind Carter that the military and Executive’s record of performance without Congress’ management has been abysmal, to put it mildly. I won’t even bother to list the litany of debacles that the military has engaged in with Congress rubber stamping the military’s “informed expert judgment”.
Finally, I would remind Carter that the military is owned, funded, and operated by the people through their Congress. The military doesn’t own the military, the taxpayer does.
This kind of attitude demonstrates the blatant disrespect that the Executive branch has for the Constitution and Congress. To be fair, Congress has brought this on themselves by abdicating their responsibilities for decades. Still,
does not consist of the President and His Army. America is still the people and their army.
Congress may well make mistakes (he said in a classic example of understatement) but the responsibility for oversight is theirs and the Executive branch and their appointed military leaders need to recognize that or step aside. For their part, Congress needs to vigorously exercise their powers and re-establish the balance of power that our government was founded on.
This is not a political blog and I post this only because it is directly linked to military procurement which is in the realm of this blog.
(1) Defense News website, “Carter Hits Hill for ‘Unhelpful Micromanagement’, Aaron Mehta,