Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Work to Do

June 19, 2013

  Tracy Oberle

Tracy Oberle

As I walked up to the Dirksen Senate office I felt a sense of excitement. Today was the day the Senate Budget Committee discussed the budget for fiscal year 2014. It has been a hot topic due to the major cuts happening within governmental programs. I wandered into an empty hearing room and found a seat in the second row.  I waited with my newspaper for the room to fill with people in business attire and realized how important this hearing was. Five minutes before the hearing began the room was packed. Silence filled the air when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey entered. They found their seats and the hearing began. The chair and co-chair of the committee made their opening statements and moved onto the statements of Hagel and Dempsey. After opening statements were made the floor was open to questions to the witnesses by committee members. The tension in the room increased dramatically.

I realized in that moment that these people were talking about a complicated issue. Should the military continue their current spending levels in an effort to stay the most dominate military power or should the money be allocated in other areas, such as foreign aid? Then other even more complex issues were brought up in an effort to get answers from the high ranking officials in the room. The attack on the embassy in Benghazi was mentioned as well as the issue of sexual assault within the military. This discussion took up half of the hearing time and I wondered what it had to do with the budget. Did it even relate to the budget at all? My heart started pumping faster and faster as their voices got louder. I was frustrated that they were not addressing the budget issue but rather recent controversial events. This was not going to help Congress pass a comprehensive defense budget. Then, realizing the time for the hearing had expired, the chair abruptly ended the event with a swift swing of the gavel. Blinded by the flashing lights that surrounded Hagel and Dempsey on their way out, I couldn’t help but think, “We have some work to do.”