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Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker; Chairman of Gingrich 360

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NDAA insufficient as Defense Department needs major reform

Aug 02, 2023

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On July 27, the Senate passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill that sets the policy agenda and approves funding for the Department of Defense. Earlier in the month, the Republican-led House narrowly passed a vastly different version of the bill, showing the power of conservative hardliners who pushed for amendments targeting the Defense Department’s abortion policy, transgender health care access and DEI initiatives.

Even if the two sides reach a compromise, Straight Arrow News contributor Newt Gingrich argues the NDAA is insufficient and major reforms are required at the Pentagon.

There’s something deeper where I think the National Defense Authorization Act is totally inadequate. Way back in the Reagan years, when it was obvious that President Reagan and Defense Secretary [Casper] Weinberger were gonna be able to get the money they needed, I helped found the Military Reform Caucus. Our concern was how the money was going to be spent. And ultimately, after a multi-year effort, literally from 1981 to 1986, we created the Goldwater Nichols Reform Act, which was the biggest reform of the Pentagon in modern times.

Well, they need the same thing again. The fact is, the bureaucracy is too slow. It has too much red tape. It’s too influenced by the lobbyists from the giant corporations. And the result is even though we spend far more money than any other country on defense, we don’t really get our dollar’s worth. And the fact is, we cannot keep up with the Chinese with our bureaucracy this incompetent, this divided, and this incapable of innovation.

So you’re gonna hear a lot more about the National Defense Authorization Act, and a lot more about the need to reform the Defense Department.

The passage of the National Defense Authorization Act was a major achievement. In fact, I congratulated speaker, Kevin McCarthy, after it happened because his margin is so narrow. Remember, he only has about a five vote margin. And I thought that getting this through, there were over 1200 amendments being offered. Some of it was very controversial. There’s a real fight between the Liberal Democrats and the rest of the country on things like transgender policy, anti white racism, in a whole series of woke issues. There’s also great concern about waste and lack of accountability in the Defense Department, which found recently that they’re about $200 billion in assets, buildings, etc, that they can’t find they can’t identify. So there’s a lot of different questions. And yet historically, the National Defense Authorization Act has been one of the most positive and most one of the most bipartisan bills. Well, with the fight over social policy in the Defense Department, for example, blocking the defense department paying for people to go out of state for abortions would be an example. The EU had was no Democrat wanted to vote for it. And in fact, in the end, only four Democrats voted yes, for a bill, which historically, would probably have gotten 80% of the Democrats. On the other hand, there are a couple of House Republicans who are really deeply opposed to Speaker McCarthy, so they don’t want to vote for anything that he’s doing. So his margin of maneuver was very close. He did get those four Democrats, they did pass the bill, it now is going to go to conference with the Senate. It’s going to be a very difficult, contentious part, process, and the conference committee, including how much aid to give to Ukraine. And candidly, the war in Ukraine now is in real turmoil, I think we’re going to discover that without dramatically more help, the Ukrainians are going to lose to the Russians, just because Russia is so much bigger than Ukraine, it can take the casualties. And if Putin is determined, he can keep coming even though he’s losing 1000s and 1000s of young Russians in this campaign. So Ukraine probably is going to require more equipment, more training, more help, in order to have a real chance to win the war. That’s going to be itself controversial. But there’s something deeper where I think the National Defense Authorization Act is totally inadequate. Way back in the Reagan years, when it was obvious that President Reagan and defense secretary Weinberger, were gonna be able to get the money they needed. I helped found the military Reform Caucus, our concern was how the money was going to be spent. And ultimately, after a multi year effort, literally from 1981 to 1986, we created the Goldwater Nichols Reform Act, which was the biggest reform of the Pentagon in modern times. Well, they need the same thing again, the fact is, the bureaucracy is too slow. It’s too much red tape. It’s too influenced by the lobbyists from the giant corporations. And the result is even though we spend far more money than any other country on defense, we don’t really get our dollars worth. And the fact is, we cannot keep up with the Chinese with our bureaucracy, this incompetent this divided and this incapable of innovation. So you’re gonna hear a lot more about the National Defense Authorization Act, and a lot more about the need to reform the Defense Department.

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