Colorado’s Role in National Defense
Congressman Lamborn praises Colorado’s contributions to strong national defense.
My friend Mike Coffman and I are the only Members of Congress from Colorado who serve on defense committees and we have our work cut out for us representing Colorado. And it’s important that Colorado is at the table, since important decisions are made here in Washington that have a big impact back home.
The biggest defense issue we are currently working on is reversing the dangerous cuts to overall defense funding. The Budget Control Act alone has led to a $443 billion cut to defense spending since its passage six years ago. In fact, over the past 10 years, defense spending has been cut by 4%, even as mandatory spending has grown by 56%.
The combination of budget cuts with continued high operational tempo has put our military in a death spiral. Alarmingly, the overwhelming majority of our forces are not fit for combat in the near-term.
- Only three of out 59 Army brigades, and just 4 of 64 Air Force squadrons are ready to ‘fight tonight’;
- Less than half of the Marine and Navy planes are ready for combat.
- The Air Force is the smallest and oldest it’s ever been, with a growing pilot shortfall.
- The Navy is the smallest it has been since World War II, with a maintenance backlog of 5.3 million days that causes ships to miss deployments.
- The Army and Marine Corps risk dropping below the absolute bare minimum levels our commanders say we need to fulfill our missions.
Meanwhile, our enemies are not sitting still. China, Russia, and other potential adversaries have been singularly focused on developing military capabilities to target U.S. forces and take away our unique military advantages.
The FY17 Appropriations bill was a decent starting point to rebuild our military, but much more is needed.
The good news is that as we rebuild our military, Colorado Springs will continue to have an increasingly vital role to play. As the Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said when I brought him to visit Colorado Springs a couple of years ago, “Colorado is the future of defense.” Missions like space, ballistic missile defense, and cyber are increasingly important to the modern battlefield, especially as our need grows to keep up with ever-accelerating threats.
Here are just a few things I’m working to support in this year’s defense bill:
I am rallying support the National Space Defense Center, formerly known as the JICSpOC, which has really put our state on the map and is the centerpiece of exciting mission growth areas in space warfighting, advanced space training, space situational awareness, battle management, and command and control.
I’m also working on language that positions Fort Carson to receive an Armor Brigade, and language to support the National Museum of World War II Aviation, the National Cyber Center, Catalyst Campus, UCCS cyber training for the Reserve and Guard.
A few other of my initiatives will not only help local companies but are simply good government. Combined with Chairman Thornberry’s third year of a major acquisition reform effort, these will reduce red tape and allow DoD to buy what it needs faster, ultimately getting us more capability for less money.
Each year, I fight for strong funding that supports local and Colorado missions, from growing the size of the Army, to space, cyber, missile defense, and areas such as C-130 modernization.
Finally, I’m always proactive against misguided attempts to cut local missions.
Just last year, there were some attempts to combine NORTHCOM and SOUTHCOM, an issue I fought in the defense bill markup. This year, I’ve already heard rumors that there may be an attempt to close the 200th Airlift Squadron at Peterson. I think there’s a strong case to preserve this squadron. There may also be some re-organization of Air Force Space Command, which for now looks very positive. For both of these issues, I will be intimately involved in the discussions and negotiations , and I will fight on behalf of Colorado.
Congressman Doug Lamborn represents Colorado’s fifth district. He currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee on the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee. This article was adapted from his remarks delivered to a Colorado audience on May 16, 2017.
For more information about Congressman Lamborn’s legislative efforts on behalf of Colorado, please visit his official website.