Last week, Congress was poised to shut down the government as it again flirts with defaulting on the nationís debt.
The last major budget battle in 2011 yielded a temporary debt ceiling increase and the curse of sequestration.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says the government will run out of borrowing authority Oct. 17. The reality that a debt default would be a strategic catastrophe for the United States should motivate all the actors in this drama to work together to map a plan that strategically and gradually addresses the nationís financial challenges, from debt reduction to entitlement and tax reform.
Yet, despite a fragile national economy and the stakes involved, brinksmanship reigns.
Congress must get beyond temporary funding measures, then raise the nationís borrowing limit, pass a real budget and, finally, abandon stalling tactics to negotiate a long-term plan.
That plan must include clear defense spending targets, allowing the Pentagon and the industry that supports it to plan accordingly.
Todayís inability to govern that inflicts continuous uncertainty in the form of sequestration or continuing resolutions constitutes perhaps the greatest strategic risk to the nation.
This inability also prevents thoughtful planning, worries allies and telegraphs weakness to potential enemies.
While the Pentagon would like more money, leaders realize deep defense cuts are here to stay. All they ask for is enough certainty and flexibility to plan wisely.
For that to happen, the public must exert pressure on those politicians who continue to believe that playing chicken with the nationís finances is an acceptable political tactic.