Most recall that Charles Dickens began his masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities, by writing that "it was the best of times; it was the worst of times." As we assess the defense outlook for 2015, it looks like that now. Few recall what Dickens wrote next in his famous first sentence: "It was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness." It looks like that, as well.
On the best of times and wisdom front, we are fortunate. The new leadership of the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees will build on the already strong bipartisan record of supporting a strong national security. Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, is known for his measured, thoughtful and bipartisan approach to legislating. His Ranking Member, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., has a positive working relationship that puts national security first. The Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ranking Member, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.1., are both veterans. Senators McCain and Reed are known for reaching across the aisle on national security matters and for their very thorough grasp of the details of national security policy.
Among them, these leaders have 98 years of combined experience at the authorizing committees and have dealt with increases and decreases in budgets, previous drawdowns, numerous conflicts and wars, five different administrations, 10 secretaries of defense and 10 chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Acquisition is one area where McCain and Thornberry have common cause--both have expressed a strong desire to reform acquisition policy because, as everyone knows, the current system does not provide the bang for the buck it should. The National Defense Industrial Association, led by Jon Etherton, has been assisting their efforts and has just published a report recommending significant acquisition improvements. Combined with the efforts of Under Secretary Frank Kendall and Better Buying Power 3.0, we have cause for optimism that 2015 will be a year for major improvements.
These new leaders also give us reason to hope that the grave error of budget sequestration (which gives rise to the age of foolishness label and the worst of times) will be reversed in the coming year. While the Murray-Ryan Bipartisan Budget Act gave the Pentagon partial relief from sequestration for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, the Defense Department faces another serious funding shortfall beginning in fiscal year 2016. We can...