U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday denounced those who advocate “an American retreat from responsibility” and said sustained U.S. leadership is needed to help keep the world as safe, free and prosperous as possible. He also urged Congress to end the partisan gridlock that has stalled the federal budget and war spending.
for the wars in Ukraine and Israel and has managed to pass only a short-term budget bill, known as a continuing resolution, that runs out early next year. The Senate has been deadlocked for months over one lawmaker’s move to block hundreds of military nominations, including critical senior commanders for key regions around the world.
“Our competitors don’t have to operate under continuing resolutions. And doing so erodes both our security and our ability to compete,” Austin said. He opened his speech with a plea to the lawmakers in the crowd to pass both the budget and the supplemental funding for the wars.
War spending would create jobs
Administration officials have warned that money for Ukraine is running out and may only last through the end of this year. The Pentagon has about $5 billion worth of equipment it can send from its own stockpiles and has been eating away at almost weekly. Money to replace military weapons and equipment taken from Pentagon stocks to send to Ukraine is rapidly dwindling, and totals about $1 billion.
Austin, who was in Ukraine’s capital less than two weeks ago, has repeatedly pressed the importance of helping Ukraine battle Russia’s invasion, as part of a broader campaign to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from threatening other countries in Europe.
Austin also noted that as much as $50 billion of that supplemental budget request for the wars would flow through American defense companies, helping to create or support tens of thousands of jobs in more than 30 states.
While he did not mention it in his address, Austin has often criticized Congress for its failure to confirm more than 400 military officers nominated for promotions or other jobs.
Senator Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from the state of Alabama, has blocked the nominations and objected when other senators have tried to get some through. On just two occasions, the Senate has managed to vote to confirm a total of six high-ranking leaders.
Almost 400 military nominations are in limbo, and the number is growing. Frustrated Republicans have tried unsuccessfully for almost nine months to persuade Tuberville to drop the holds, and negotiations are continuing. Senior military officials have warned repeatedly that the situation threatens readiness and national security.