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Republicans: Stop Funding an Unaccountable Military

Ohio's Rep. Davidson argues Congress must not authorize the NDAA until senior military leadership are held accountable and replaced.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, brief the media on Afghanistan, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Aug. 18, 2021. (DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Julian Kemper)

When I was a captain in the 101st Airborne Division, a mortar platoon sergeant was relieved of duty for endangering the lives of men in his platoon who were training ahead of a deployment. In frustration, he improperly handled a live mortar—kicking it over. Thankfully, the round didn’t go off and there were no casualties or injuries. Still, accountability was swift.

Similar high standards were applied in the Navy when the warship Fitzgerald and the destroyer John S. McCain collided with civilian vessels in the Pacific. Not only were the commanders of each ship relieved, the 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, was also relieved.

Why, then, is the Biden administration—and now Congress—content to sweep under the rug the mismanagement and bungled operations that led to the deaths of 13 service members in Kabul on August 26 and the subsequent stranding of both American citizens and Afghan allies behind enemy lines? They kept their word to the Taliban, but lied to the American people. Yet Secretary Austin and General Milley are still leading the Department of Defense. Those who understand the military are sick and tired of this unjust two-tiered system in which the highest officials are never fired or prosecuted.

Certainly, there have been some sternly worded letters and press conferences. But, last I checked, Congress still retains the power of the purse. If we were serious about demanding accountability from our military and the current commander-in-chief, we would withhold funds until we had clarity on the situation.

To that end, I’m voting against this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

The NDAA is one of the few remaining annual must-pass bills in Congress. The Armed Services Committee Republicans touted spending increases in this year’s NDAA. While we certainly want bipartisan agreement to fund the military, the military’s current trajectory is skewing in a highly partisan direction—threatening both readiness and morale.

After Americans—and the world—witnessed a disastrous and disorderly exit from Afghanistan, there ought to be an investigation. And what about accountability for targeting civilians in President Biden’s ham-fisted drone strike? The strike was supposed to be a forceful response to ISIS-K, who killed our service members and over 100 Afghans fleeing the Taliban. But instead of taking out another would-be suicide bomber, the drone strike killed ten innocents, including seven children. These errors cannot continue unchecked and they are indicative of unacceptably low standards and expectations.

National security depends on knowing what went wrong, why it went wrong, and holding the responsible individuals accountable. Republicans offered several amendments that would answer these questions, but the Democrat majority refuses even to ask them.

Similarly, the accounts of Gen. Mark Milley’s unauthorized communications with Chinese military leaders before the inauguration of President Biden warrant an investigation—and, if proven true, a court martial. In 2012, President Obama reluctantly asked for General McChrystal’s resignation for speaking inappropriately about the administration during an interview with Rolling Stone. But, for some reason, usurping the president, the State Department, and the diplomatic corps does not warrant the same accountability in the Biden administration. Gen. Milley’s back-channel with China violates a core tenet of our republic: that civilian leadership controls the military.

I left the Army in 2000, a difficult decision I made after watching President Clinton’s spineless reaction to Al Qaeda’s first attack on Americans—the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. As bad as morale and politicization were then, the situation is much worse now, in part because the military is also being used as a testing ground for woke social experiments.

Gen. Milley failed very publicly by defending the use of highly divisive required reading materials for our enlisted service members. The curriculum is now centered on critical race theory and diversity trainings that focus on race, class, and gender grievance politics. These initiatives ought to be defunded so that we can keep the military focused on fighting and winning wars, not igniting a culture war in the ranks.

President Biden has reversed President Trump’s sensible policy that prohibits transgender individuals from serving in the military. In the meantime, the NDAA will now require that women register for Selective Service at age 18, essentially drafting our daughters in the name of gender equality. (In my opinion, the “equitable” solution is to end the draft entirely, unless and until Congress declares a new war that cannot be won without a draft.)

Why are Republicans content to fund these progressive priorities?

Funding the military is an essential duty of Congress, but so is oversight. In the past, I’ve remarked that Democrats have chosen to hold our enlisted men and women hostage by withholding their pay raises until Republicans agree to let progressives mismanage the military. Republicans who vote for this bill are pretending we’ll be better able to defend our country as they are surrendering its soul to anti-American ideals and influences.

It’s time we stopped agreeing to this annual game of chicken and started doing our jobs. We should not fund an unaccountable military.

Allowing this rot to continue isn’t just demoralizing to those of us who served and love this country, it is making our country less free, less safe, and more burdened by debt. Our national security depends on holding everyone in the military—from the top brass in the Pentagon to the newest enlisted infantryman—to exacting standards. It’s time we demand this accountability, not only from the military, but from the elected leaders who fund it.

Warren Davidson serves as U.S. representative for Ohio’s 8th congressional district. He enlisted in the army after high school and later attended West Point. During his military career, he served in 101st Airborne, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and the Old Guard.

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