Spot report: Capitol Hill obscured due to fog of politics

Spot report: Capitol Hill obscured due to fog of politics

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The name of this column, “View from the Hill,” is meant to indicate that the essay is a viewpoint, or editorial regarding activities on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The goal has been to help those outside the Capital Beltway to understand what is supposed to happen, what is actually happening, or what might happen in Congress in the coming weeks and months.

Back in the early eighties, your author was an enlisted soldier.

As a cavalry scout, one of our tasks was to establish a dismounted observation post. The goal was to find a location that allowed you to see without being seen so that you could report to higher headquarters the activity in your sector.

We used binoculars during the day and night vision scopes at night. We would locate on higher ground, so you could observe and report on movement in the lower ground a long way off.

This allowed you to provide advance warning as the enemy entered your area of operations.

Unfortunately, on some mornings, fog would settle in the low ground, disrupting the view of the sector. In a heavy fog even thermal sights didn’t always help.

Unless you displaced to a different observation post, there was little you could do until the fog burned off over time.

And that is what it is like from my observation post at AUSA headquarters right now. Congress is shrouded in virtual fog, making it difficult to provide my usual report to you this month.

As I write, both the House and Senate are on August recess.

However, the Senate is only taking one week of recess this year, returning to Washington on August 15. By the time you read this, the Senate may have brought the defense appropriations bill to the floor and passed it.

That would be a huge accomplishment.

It would allow a conferenced bill to be passed before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, something called “regular order,” even though we haven’t seen that happen in many years.

The view is shrouded in fog, though, as there are multiple contentious issues which the Senate must avoid. Families separated at the border, border wall funding, the Supreme Court nomination and many other issues unrelated to defense could derail progress in this political environment.

When the House returns on Sept. 4, there will only be 11 legislative days left when both the House and Senate will be in session before the Sept. 30 deadline.

It is certain that a continuing resolution will be required for at least part of the government. But the fact that some appropriations bills have been moving in the Senate creates a flicker of hope in an otherwise thick fog.

As the fog lifts, AUSA hopes that it reveals a defense appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed by the president, on time and providing predictable resources to our soldiers.

Anything less is a dereliction of duty.

See you on the high ground.