By Edward Tonini, Opinion contributor Louisville Courier-Journal

Now that Congress has funded the government for the remainder of the fiscal year and prevented another government shutdown, we must turn our attention to future budget needs and reevaluate spending caps that threaten our national security.

As a former Adjutant General of Kentucky with 43 years of service in the Kentucky National Guard, I know that the strength of our military, and our nation, is dependent on the strength of our people. I am deeply concerned that 72 percent of young people ages 17 to 24 in Kentucky, and 71 percent nationwide, cannot qualify for military service because they are too poorly educated, medically or physically unfit, or have a disqualifying record of crime or drug abuse.

The implications of this recruitment crisis were underscored last year when the Army fell short of its 2018 recruiting goal by 6,500 soldiers. Further, in 2018 the Army missed its end strength goal for the active duty component by almost 7,500 soldiers, and the Army National Guard and Army Reserve missed their end strength goals by 8,000 and 9,000 soldiers, respectively.

The shortage of qualified young people who are willing to serve will continue to erode the strength of our military, unless we address the root causes now.

That’s why I recently joined nearly 350 of my fellow retired generals and admirals in sending a letter to all members of Congress urging them to develop a federal budget that provides balanced investments in both defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs.

Non-defense discretionary programs play a vital role in supporting our national security by contributing directly to the health, education and development of the next generation. This includes the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which helps low-income families afford child care. Research shows that access to quality child care has significant positive impacts on children’s social, cognitive and physical development.

Non-defense discretionary programs play a vital role in supporting our national security by contributing directly to the health, education and development of the next generation. This includes the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which helps low-income families afford child care. Research shows that access to quality child care has significant positive impacts on children’s social, cognitive and physical development.

Non-defense discretionary programs play a vital role in supporting our national security by contributing directly to the health, education and development of the next generation. This includes the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which helps low-income families afford child care. Research shows that access to quality child care has significant positive impacts on children’s social, cognitive and physical development.

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