Wednesday, May 13, 2009

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Budget Request

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Budget Request
May 13, 2009

Ike Skelton, Chairman
For Immediate Release: May 13, 2009

Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing on the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Budget Request:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to today’s hearing to review the budget request of the Department of Defense for Fiscal Year 2010. Appearing before us today are the Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Robert M. Gates, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael G. Mullen.

“Gentlemen, welcome. It is good to see you and let me take a moment to thank you for your service and for the tremendous jobs you are doing for the Nation. I am sure I speak for all the Members of this committee today when I express the deep respect, admiration, and appreciation that we have for both of you and of course to the millions of men and women serving in uniform, and to our defense civilians, whom you lead.

“There is always something special about the annual budget request hearing. It is symbolic of the principle of separation of powers, and it signals the start of a very important process. Congress will give due consideration to this request from the executive branch and we will work with you to make sure that it reflects the national security priorities appropriately. The challenges before us are great. We have two wars to fight and win, we have the spread of violent extremism to roll back, and we have what seems to be an ever-increasing array of new challenges to deal with – from high tech cyber attacks to old fashioned pirates.

“Last Thursday, President Obama submitted his budget request, which included $533.8 billion for the Department of Defense, which represents an increase of 4 percent from last year. These are tough economic times, as everyone knows, and so I am encouraged to see some modest growth in defense spending even as the President attempts to strike a fiscally responsible balance between competing needs. Still, I expect we will find that DOD will have serious and compelling unmet requirements. It will be incumbent upon us to recognize them and mitigate the risks they represent appropriately.

“But before we talk about that, first let me commend you on delivering a bold product. Back in April you said that you would reorient the DOD’s strategic posture towards what you perceive as the most pressing needs: the wars we are fighting today and “hybrid” or irregular wars of tomorrow, all while retaining the superiority of our conventional and strategic forces. That’s not an easy task, and while I have some questions about your underlying assumptions, I applaud the effort.

“I am especially pleased to see that even as you do begin this process of reorientation, you have remained focused on the most critical component of our national security: our people. An increase of 8.9 percent in the military personnel accounts, with a 2.9 percent pay raise is an important example of taking care of our service members.

“I am also happy to see that you have fully funded the Defense Health Program, and have not tried to reduce health care costs by raising TRICARE fees. The question that now faces us is what approach will the Department of Defense take to address the growing cost of providing healthcare?

“I remained concerned about the current readiness of our forces. Continuous combat operations over the past seven years have consumed readiness as quickly as it is gained. Repeated deployments with limited dwell time have reduced the ability of the forces to train across the full-spectrum of conflict, putting the nation at strategic risk. Equipment shortfalls hinder the forces’ ability to train for and respond to other contingencies. In spite of this, the fiscal year 2010 budget O&M request basically leaves training at a steady state and in the case of Army tank miles reduces funding.

“I also worry about the ability of the Navy to rebuild their Fleet. The fleet today is as small as it has been since the beginning of World War II. For the last few years we heard that the Navy’s goal was at least 313 ships. Every year there is a plan which shows increased ship construction in later years. Every year those increased construction plans shift even further. Today, we have before us a request for the construction of 9 ships, but see no plan for future construction to guide our deliberations. And it is not just ships that concern me. I am very concerned with the current Navy and Marine Corps Strike Fighter Shortfall. When I do the math, simple arithmetic tells me that the Navy and Marine Corps will be some 300 strike fighters short in the middle of the next decade.

“On a more positive note, the request for missile defense provides our warfighters real capabilities to meet the real threats faced by the United States, its deployed forces, and its friends and allies. It increases funding for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems by $900 million and also increases funding for testing activities.

“Regarding the wars we are fighting today, it is good to see a renewed focus on the challenge of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The President’s new strategy for this region is well considered and supported here in Congress. Still, we do have some questions about it, especially in light of the leadership decisions you announced on Monday. What are you going to need to get this job done? How are you going to go about it, and above all, how are you going to know if you are succeeding?

“Let me return for a minute, to your attempt to reorient the strategic direction of the Department. I know you have said that only about 10 percent of this budget represents funding for those new capabilities, while 50 percent will go towards traditional warfighting needs and the remaining 40 percent of the budget supports dual-purpose capabilities that work in any scenario, but how did you get there? I repeatedly took the last administration to task for lacking an overarching strategy and I have been encouraging the Obama Administration to begin a holistic process of developing one. On top of that, we have heard that you have postponed some decisions until the report of this year’s Quadrennial Defense Review is released early next year. So help us understand the analysis you used to come up with this budget. We understand that those things deferred to the QDR needed more analysis. But, what about the decisions that were made now, before the QDR? What has changed since last year to warrant the changes you’ve made in these and other programs?

“Lastly, I’d like to make two quick points. The first is to note that Congress still has significant concerns regarding the planned move of the Marines from Okinawa to Guam. At over $10 billion, it is an enormous project and I am concerned that the thinking behind it is not yet sufficiently mature. We need to do this, but it needs to be done right.

“The second is that I’d like to commend President Obama and you, Mr. Secretary, for your commitment to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and to review the legal process for bringing accused terrorists to justice. Please take a moment today to tell where that review effort stands and where you plan to move the detainees.

“Before I turn to my friend and colleague, John McHugh of New York, the ranking member of this committee for his opening remarks, I’d like to make a few administrative announcements:

· We will be rigorously adhering to the 5 minute rule
· At some point, we will have a short recess for lunch
· No outbursts or disruptive behavior in the gallery will be tolerated.

“Now, Mr. McHugh.”


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