Deputy Secretary Urges Prompt Funding for Current, Future Challenges
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2008 The proposed fiscal 2009 defense budget will enable the department to continue resourcing troops on the front lines fighting terrorism while also ensuring the military’s readiness to confront other challenges, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told a Senate committee today.
England joined Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Comptroller Tina W. Jonas in discussing with the Senate Budget Committee details of the fiscal 2009 budget and war cost recommendations.
President Bush has asked Congress for $515.4 billion for the fiscal 2009 base budget, plus another $70 billion in emergency “bridge” funding to cover war costs into the next calendar year.
England conceded that the dollars are high, but critical investments in light of threats facing the country. It’s “a lot of money, but it does reflect the reality of the world we live in,” he said. “And when appropriated, it will provide the necessary resources to execute the national military strategy.”
Noting the “complex security environment we are in today,” England cited the “variety of very prominent challenges” facing the country. He pointed to the threats posed by terrorism, extremism, jihadism and ethnic, tribal and sectarian conflict. But other challenges and potential challenges loom, as well: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, failed and failing states, and emerging powers with yet-unclear intentions.
“Each of these threats … poses unique challenges and demands on the Department of Defense,” England told the committee. “Even while we are committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, we do have to be concerned about the other security challenges to our nation, so we look at this in a much broader context.”
As the United States applies a comprehensive approach and every aspect of national power to address these challenges, it will continue to rely heavily on the Defense Department and its capabilities, he said.
England urged the senators to approve the defense and wartime supplemental funding requests quickly to avoid a repeat of the situation that occurred this year. The fiscal 2008 defense budget did not pass into law until late January, though the fiscal year began Oct. 1.
Such a delay would be even more challenging in 2009, particularly in light of disruption expected during the change in U.S. administrations, he told the committee.
“It will be extraordinarily difficult to manage the department and to maintain our security both for our people in combat and for our citizens if we are also, at that time, in a budget turmoil like we were last year,” he said. “It is vitally important that we have some consistency in terms of our funding and predictability in that funding. Otherwise, it will be hugely disruptive, I think, for everyone come this fall.”
England said predicting long-term war costs is nearly impossible, especially before hearing Army Gen. David H. Petraeus’ recommendations for force structure in Iraq beyond this summer. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, is expected to deliver his assessment to President Bush and Congress in late March or early April.
But in the meantime, England said, the country must ensure its troops in harm’s way have what they need to succeed.
“We have these magnificent men and women who come forward to protect and defend our nation, and therefore it is incumbent on us, frankly, to provide them the funding they need,” he said. “They are deployed today, and it is incumbent on our nation to support our men and women in uniform.”