May 02, 2007

WE DELAY AT OUR TROOPS' PERIL

By Senator Mike Crapo

Perhaps the most important responsibility of the federal government under our Constitution is national defense. When that responsibility requires that we commit troops to war, we are obligated to provide them the means to accomplish the mission as determined by military leaders in the field. That support includes providing physical resourcesâ??equipment and trainingâ??and we stand behind the military's determination of effective rules of engagement. Our military deserves nothing less. When military's ability to accomplish its mission is hamstrung, wars drag out and more people die. Congress passed a war funding bill that the President has rightly vetoed. It's foolhardy to announce troop movement and management decisions. It's even more improper for Congress to micromanage war operations: Imagine what many in Congress would say if General Petraeus decided to run war operations out of an office on Capitol Hill rather than where battles are occurring. Congress has an oversight role but that doesn't include making battlefield decisions. Politicizing troop funding by tying it to the debate over the war in Iraq is recklessly dangerous for our troops in the field. It's interrupting essential supply operations and training as well as lowering morale. Every day Congress delays, our servicemen and women are at greater risk. Delaying troop funding means that:â?¢ Ongoing training of Iraqi security forces, essential to their ability to take the lead role in security operations, is disrupted;â?¢ Purchases and deliveries of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP) are on hold. MRAP's were fully and unanimously funded by the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this year, and are predicted to reduce Improvised Explosive Device casualties in vehicles by 80 percent.â?¢ Regular and necessary repair and maintenance of equipment will be disrupted.â?¢ Training of guard and reserve units in the U.S. will be curtailed, adversely affecting troop readiness.â?¢ Most distressingly, the Department of Defense has alerted Congress that if funding is not approved by mid-May, troop rotations will be affect, and extensions of tours of duty in Iraq are likely due to the reduction in training capability stateside. Many in Congress assert that there is plenty of time to get funding to our troops. This is simply not true. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense have testified that funding delays will detrimentally affect troop readiness and our military families. Americans are divided about how the war should be managed and we want our military home safely and as quickly as possible. This is an important debate and, as a democratic society, one that must continue. But, a troop funding bill is the wrong legislative arena in which to hold this debate. A wise Idahoanâ??a mother of five boys, one currently serving in the Marine Corpsâ??wrote to me and reminded me of the words of Winston Churchill: "If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves." We aren't America if we allow ourselves to be brought to our knees by those who hate freedom. American troops brought to their knees because of inadequate training or equipment is a chilling condemnation of Congress' failure in its Constitutional duty.