WASHINGTON -- While President Barack Obama golfs his way through the Gulf Coast's oil-drenched environmental calamity, another crisis is looming across the Potomac. America's military, in harm's way in a two-front war, is about to get staggered by a double whammy below the belt. Unfortunately for those who wear our nation's uniform, the commander in chief and his cronies in Congress are throwing the punches.
The first blow will land in the next two weeks unless Harry Reid's Senate and Nancy Pelosi's House of Representatives can get their acts together to pass a supplemental appropriations bill to fund combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In May, while proselytizing for homosexuals in our military, Defense Secretary Robert Gates gently reminded the congressional Armed Services committees that he needed the appropriation by Memorial Day. They ignored him.
Last month, he went again and told them the funds had to be approved before the Independence Day recess or the Pentagon would have to start doing "stupid things" -- such as shifting funds within the overall Defense Department budget just to keep the troops in the field supplied with beans, bullets and bandages. Once again, Congress -- taking its cue from Obama's virtual silence on the matter -- did nothing.
On July 13, Gates went up to Capitol Hill again, urging the solons to break the deadlock before the House recesses for "campaign season" at the end of the month. The defense secretary warned that without action by then, he will have to start canceling contracts on everything from weapons and equipment repairs to ammunition and fuel purchases in order to pay the troops. Not exactly what a soldier, sailor, airman, guardsman or Marine needs to hear in the middle of Afghanistan's "fighting season."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., describes the situation as "a true emergency." Yet despite dire predictions of higher unemployment as defense suppliers shed employees when contracts for munitions and equipment are delayed, there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency at the Obama White House. Perhaps that's because this is just the first low blow.
A second salvo is making its way through Washington's "think tanks" and elite soirees. For more than a month, while Gates has been begging Congress to act on this year's $33 billion war supplemental, the Sustainable Defense Task Force quietly has been circulating a report, titled "Debt, Deficits, & Defense: A Way Forward," to the same congressional offices. The 56-page document lays the groundwork for drastic cuts in U.S. military spending -- starting next year.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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