New Congress and administration next month: starting with a clean slate offers big opportunities

THE MIL & AERO COMMENTARY, 13 Dec. 2016. I'm reading with interest excited reports about congressional approval of the federal fiscal year 2017 $618.7 billion defense authorization bill, which has gone to President Obama's desk for his signature into law.

Dec 13th, 2016
New Congress and administration next month: starting with a clean slate offers big opportunities
New Congress and administration next month: starting with a clean slate offers big opportunities
THE MIL & AERO COMMENTARY, 13 Dec. 2016. I'm reading with interest excited reports about congressional approval of the federal fiscal year 2017 $618.7 billion defense authorization bill, which has gone to President Obama's desk for his signature into law.

At first glance there's some good news. First, it includes a $3.2 billion increase in military spending. Although there's concern that Obama may veto the bill, experts are optimistic the 2017 authorization will become law.

When I read these stories, however, I can't help thinking, why are we talking about this now? Federal fiscal year 2017 began more than two months ago, on 1 Oct. 2016. This legislative business should have been wrapped up last September, not a couple of weeks before Christmas. How is it we're considering as progress a mandated congressional bill that's more than two months late?

Unfortunately this has been business as usual for the federal government for about the past eight years or more. Spending bills that get hung-up over arcane political language and partisan inside-baseball content bust deadline after deadline after deadline.

Related: Here’s what you need to know about the new defense budget bill

You can put all kinds of political spin on this, but here's my take: We had an election in early November in which the American people said enough, already!

We have a new Congress and a new presidential administration coming into office in January. Is it too much to ask to end the political junk -- to craft and approve congressional budget bills, authorization bills, and appropriations bills that keep the government running BEFORE the new fiscal year starts?

Congress, can we get back to basics? We're supposed to have clear spending language approved and passed into law by the end of September every year, if not before. Perhaps we've lost sight of that. Nevertheless, the federal fiscal year ends on 30 Sept. and begins on 1 Oct. Legislation ought to be completed before then.

Dragging things out does real damage. The industries supporting the federal government for things like guns, tanks, planes, rockets, spacecraft, airport security, air traffic control systems, and many other things need stability so they can plan, make decisions about internal research, and make up their own annual budgets. Industry has had precious little of that from the federal government for years. It's time for a change.

Related: Time to boost the importance of U.S. Cyber Command

Without clear guidance from Congress and the administration, about the best industry leaders can do is sit on their hands until they know where to place their developmental and financial priorities. Failing that puts a crimp on technological innovation.

It's a competitive world out there, and a lack of leadership from Congress and the administration just keeps us falling behind. May we please have a Congress and an administration that are accountable?

With the new Congress and new administration coming to Washington next month, may we please resolve to start anew, get the nation's finances in order, and move forward boldly?

If not now, then when?

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