Over the past several weeks, two of Utah’s federal legislators have been quietly making House and Senate committee assignment requests that will have a long term, positive impact on Utah’s ability to help shape very important national security decisions which will occur over the next few years.
Senator Mike Lee and Congressman Rob Bishop have both requested, and subsequently received, appointments to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees respectively. This is good for Utah.
Whatever the final outcome of the ongoing sequestration debate, one thing that is very clear is that the U.S. Department of Defense budget will become smaller as this country struggles to deal with our debilitating national debt issues.
Many of the important discussions and decisions regarding the future of our defense posture will occur in the armed services committees and Senator Lee’s and Congressman Bishop’s willingness to throw themselves into this debate will be important for our nation and our state on several levels.
First, as the debate over the make-up of a smaller military occurs it will be important that constituencies from across the United States are represented in the discussion.
Utah’s military installations, particularly Hill Air Force Base and the Utah Test and Training Range, are critically important elements of the national defense infrastructure. Having legislators on both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees who are able to articulate the national defense value of these installations will be important as decision makers evaluate national defense options for the future.
Second, as the country reshapes our military it is almost certain that there will be another round of base realignment and closure, or BRAC as it’s more commonly called.
Most experts are predicting a next BRAC by 2015 and, as they have in the past, Congress will write the language which prescribes how the BRAC will be conducted. If past practice holds, Congress will also appoint some portion of the BRAC commissioners who will oversee the process. Much of the work associated with drafting BRAC language and appointing commissioners will occur in the armed services committees and both Senator Lee and Congressman Bishop will now have a voice as those important decisions are deliberated.
Finally, decisions are made and legislation is drafted every year within the armed services committees which can have dramatic impacts on Utah’s military infrastructure.
While generally less visible than a BRAC scenario, the ability for our state to have a say in these actions is no less important. Laws regarding the make-up of our military and its equipment, how and where that equipment is maintained, and how much funding is allocated for various defense requirements can have dramatic impacts on the size, shape and missions of all military installations. Membership on both armed services committees will ensure Utah’s interests are considered as these issues are evaluated.
The national defense debate will be one of the most important issues our federal legislators tackle over the next few years. Balancing the need to regain our fiscal health with the ongoing requirement to provide for the common defense will be hard work, contentious, and vitally important for our future.
Much of that hard work will be done in the armed services committees and Senator Lee and Congressman Bishop should be commended for their willingness to serve Utah and the nation as members of those committees.
Flint is president and CEO of the Utah Defense Alliance. Sullivan is executive director and COO of the Utah Defense Alliance.