Mullen Discusses Fiscal 2012 Budget Proposal With Senate Committee
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2011 Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told the Senate Appropriations Committee today that he supports the fiscal 2012 budget proposal, and that it funds service members in harm’s way in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the proposed 2012 budget fully funds deployed service members, while putting in place savings. He also said the effort to find savings in DOD will be guided by strategy and needs and will avoid the trap that leads to a hollow force.
“This budget … provides for the well-being of our troops and families, fully funds current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and helps balance global risk through streamlined organizations, smarter acquisitions and prudent modernization,” he told the defense subcommittee.
All services are taking the efficiencies process seriously. The Army will cancel procurement of a surface-to-air missile and the non-line-of-sight launch system. It will continue production of the joint light tactical vehicle and spearhead the development of a whole new family of armored vehicles, he said.
The Navy’s efficiencies will allow it to continue development of the next-generation ballistic missile submarine, purchase 40 new F-18s, four littoral combat ships and another LPD-17.
Under the budget, the Marines will cancel the expeditionary fighting vehicle. “They will reinvest these savings to sustain and modernize the amphibious assault vehicle and the light armored vehicle, even as they advance a new concept of operations and restore much of their naval expeditionary skills,” he said.
“The Air Force will be able to continue development of the next tanker, a new bomber, and modernize its aging fleet of F-15 fighters, all the while finding savings of more than $33 billion through reorganization, consolidation and reduced facilities requirements,” the chairman said.
And the deployed forces will keep the capabilities they need to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. “We are asking for more than $84 billion for readiness and training, nearly $5 billion for increased [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] capabilities, and more than $10 billion to recapitalize our rotary aircraft fleet,” Mullen said.
Personnel concerns are at the top of the DOD agenda. The country must give service members and their families what they need to cope with the stress and the strain of 10 years at war. “That’s why I’m so pleased with the funds devoted in this proposal, almost three-quarters as much as the $200 billion budgeted for operations and maintenance, to personnel, housing and health care issues,” he said.
Mullen took the opportunity to strongly come out in favor of changes to the military health care program. “We sought equity across all health care programs, with beneficiaries and health care delivery providers having the same benefits and equivalent payment systems, regardless of where they live or work,” he said. “That in turn led us to propose increases in Tricare enrollment fees for working-age retirees. These increases are modest and manageable and leave fees well below the inflation-adjusted out-of-pocket costs set in 1995 when the current fees were established. We sincerely hope you will see fit to pass it.”
The chairman also pledged to continue robust research into mental health issues and into the wounds of those serving today. “We understand that changes to health care benefits cause concern among the people we serve and the communities from which we receive care, but we also understand and hold sacred our obligation to care completely for those who have borne the brunt of these wars, as well as those for whom the war never ends,” he said.
Mullen wants the U.S. government to be prudent in defining priorities, in controlling costs and in slaking the thirst for more and better systems. “We should also be clear about what the joint force can and cannot do, just as we should be clear about what we expect from our interagency and international partners,” he said. “Our global commitments have not shrunk. If anything, they continue to grow. And the world is a lot less predictable now than we could’ve ever imagined. You need look no further than events across the Middle East and North Africa to see the truth in that.”
Mullen spoke directly to the challenges of the assessment of America’s military missions, capabilities and role in a changing world. This will inform decisions about the $400 billion in savings President Barack Obama directed DOD to find.
“Our review will be based on strategy and risks, not simply budgetary math, and our goal will be to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, nor at the end of this endeavor find ourselves with a hollow force -- a force that retains an organizational structure but lacks the people, training and equipment necessary to perform the tasks we expect from it,” the chairman said.