It’s no secret that military programs are under close scrutiny as spending is cut. The inevitable power struggle has left a presidential budget seeking one thing, think-tanks and pundits demanding something else, winded lobbyists arguing their cases and Congress adding to the quagmire.
So who has final say as to what military programs are a “go” or “no go?” When a panel testifying before the House Armed Services Committee said that power resides with the president, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., did something unheard of. At a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing Thursday, he pulled out the Constitution. Here’s what he had to say:
“Several days ago another panel was before us and we noted that the military does two things that we are frequently not involved in — that the Congress is not involved in,” he said. “They decide to develop a new weapons program, and they develop the requirements for that and the characteristics of that. And then they come to the Congress and say we would like you to fund that.
“And then for programs that don’t go well, they come to us and tell us we think that this program needs to be aborted and we would like your consent to do that — hardly ask our consent, we’re just going to abort it and we’re telling you we’re doing that.
“We asked that panel could we be part of the process? This should not be a semi-adversarial relationship between the Congress and the Pentagon. We would like to be involved in that process. And what one of them told us, gee, you know, this is an executive responsibility and you shouldn’t really be involved in that process.
“So I took out my constitution. And I went to section 1 which defines the responsibilities of the Congress. And Article 1 section H says the Congress shall have power to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy, to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces, provide for organizing army — I think army refers to all of these platforms, doesn’t it? The constitution says our responsibility. And disciplining the military. And authority of training the military according to discipline proscribed by the congress.
“And then I went to Section 2 of the constitution which describes the powers of the executive. And I looked for all of those parts of Section 2 that relate to the military. And I found one. And that says, the president shall be the commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States and of the militia of the several states when called into the actual service of the United States.
“So if we went strictly by the Constitution, the Congress ought to have responsibility for almost everything that the Pentagon now claims is the province of the executive. And we have no responsibility for that.
“The compromise we would like to be in on the process. We have a very capable staff here. … And so I’m pleading for an opportunity for us to work with you in developing these systems and that we’d like to be in on the process. We hope that you will work with us to do that.”