HomeNewsSpeechesSpeech View
Secretary of Defense Testimony

Opening Statement -- House Appropriations Committee-Defense (FY 2017 Budget Request)

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Washington, D.C., February 25, 2016

PRINT | E-MAIL

Thank you, Chairman [Frelinghuysen]; Chairman [Rogers], thank you; Mr. Visclosky, thank you – and all of you, thanks for what you said about the troops.  That means it all.  That’s what I wake up for every morning.  I’m sure that’s true of the Chairman [Dunford] as well.  They are the best of America and we’re very proud to be associated with them, and I’m very pleased to hear you say the same things.  Good for them to hear that too, so thank you, thank you all very much.  And thanks for hosting me today, and in general for your steadfast support to the men and women of the Department of Defense – military and civilian alike – who serve and defend our country all over the world.

I’m pleased to be here with Chairman Dunford to discuss President Obama’s 2017 defense budget, which marks, as was indicated, a major inflection point for this department.  I’m also pleased to be discussing the budget first before this committee, which has been a leader in securing the resources the department needs.

In this budget, we’re taking the long view.  We have to, because even as we fight today’s fights, we must also be prepared for what might come 10, 20, or 30 years down the road.  Last fall’s budget deal gave us some much-needed, and much-appreciated stability.  I want to thank you and your colleagues for coming together to pass that agreement.  The Bipartisan Budget Act set the size of our budget, which is why our budget submission, and my testimony, focus on its shape – changing that shape in fundamental but carefully considered ways to adjust to a new strategic era, and seize opportunities for the future.

Let me describe the strategic assessment that drove our budget decisions.  First of all, it’s evident that America is still today the world’s foremost leader, partner, and underwriter of stability and security in every region across the globe – as we have been since the end of World War II.  I was in Brussels the week before last, meeting with NATO defense ministers as well as defense ministers of the counter-ISIL military coalition – and I can tell you they all appreciate leadership from the Department of Defense of America.

As we continue to fulfill this enduring role, it’s also evident that we’re entering a new strategic era.  Today’s security environment is dramatically different from the last 25 years, requiring new ways of investing and new ways of operating.  Five evolving strategic challenges – namely Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and terrorism – five – are now driving DoD’s planning and budgeting as reflected in this budget.

I want to focus first on our ongoing fight against terrorism, especially ISIL – which we must and will deal a lasting defeat, most immediately in its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, but also where it’s metastasizing in the world.  We’re doing that in Africa; we’re also doing that in Afghanistan, where we continue to stand with the Afghan government and people to counter al-Qaeda, and now ISIL, while at the same time all the while we protect our homeland.  As we’re accelerating our overall counter-ISIL campaign, we’re backing it up with increased funding in 2017 in our request – requesting $7.5 billion, which is 50 percent more than last year.

Just this week, following the progress we’ve made in Iraq by retaking Ramadi, we’ve also made operationally significant strides in our campaign to dismantle ISIL in Syria.  There, capable and motivated local forces supported by the U.S. and our global coalition have reclaimed territory surrounding the east Syrian town of Shaddadi, which is a critical ISIL base for command and control, logistics, training, and oil revenues.  More importantly, by encircling and taking this town, we are seeking to sever the last major northern artery between Raqqa and Mosul, and ultimately dissect the parent tumor into two parts – one in Iraq and the other in Syria.  This is just the most recent example of how we’re effectively enabling and partnering with local forces to help deal ISIL a lasting defeat.

Next, two of the other four challenges reflect a recognition of – a return to, in some ways – great power competition.  One challenge is in Europe, where we’re taking a strong and balanced approach to deter Russian aggression – we haven’t had to devote a significant portion of our defense investment to this possibility for a quarter-century, but now we do.  The other challenge is in the Asia-Pacific, where China is rising, which is fine, but behaving aggressively, which is not.  There, we’re continuing our rebalance, in terms of weight of effort, to maintain the regional stability we’ve underwritten for the past 70 years, allowing so many nations to rise and prosper in this, the single most consequential region for America’s future.

Meanwhile, two other longstanding challenges pose threats in specific regions.  North Korea is one – that’s why our forces on the Korean Peninsula remain ready, as they say, to “fight tonight.”  The other is Iran, because while the nuclear accord is a good deal for preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, we must still deter Iranian aggression and counter Iran’s malign influence against our friends and allies in the region, especially Israel, to whom we maintain an unwavering and unbreakable commitment.

DoD must and will address all five of those challenges as part of its mission to defend our country.  Doing so requires new investments on our part, new postures in some regions, and also new and enhanced capabilities.  For example, in confronting these five challenges, we know we’ll have to deal with them across all domains – and not just the usual air, land, and sea, but also particularly in the areas of cyber, electronic warfare, and space, where our reliance on technology has given us great strengths and great opportunities, but also led to vulnerabilities that adversaries are eager to exploit. 

Key to our approach is being able to deter our most advanced competitors.  We must have – and be seen to have – the ability to ensure that anyone who starts a conflict with us will regret doing so.  To be clear, the U.S. military would fight very differently than we have in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in the rest of the world’s recent memory.  We will, and must be, prepared for a high-end enemy – what we call “full-spectrum.”  In our budget, our capabilities, our readiness, and our actions, we must demonstrate to potential foes that if they start a war, we have the capability to win.  Because a force meant to deter conflict must show that it can dominate a conflict.

In this context, Russia and China are our most stressing competitors, as they’ve both developed and continue to advance military systems – including anti-access systems – that seek to threaten our advantages in specific areas.  We saw it last week in the South China Sea, and we see it in Crimea and Syria as well.  In some cases, they’re developing weapons and ways of war that seek to achieve their objectives rapidly, before they think we can respond.  Now, we don’t desire conflict with either country.  And while I need to say that they pose some similar challenges militarily, they are very different nations and very different situations, and our preference is to work together with important nations.  But we also cannot blind ourselves to their apparent goals and actions.  Because of this, DoD has elevated their importance in our planning and budgeting. 

In my written testimony, I’ve detailed how our budget makes critical investments to help us better address these five evolving challenges.  We’re strengthening our deterrence posture in Europe by investing $3.4 billion for our European Reassurance Initiative – quadruple what we requested last year.  We’re prioritizing training and readiness for our ground forces, and reinvigorating the readiness and modernization of our fighter aircraft fleet.  We’re investing in innovative capabilities like swarming 3D-printed microdrones, the long-range strike bomber, and the arsenal plane, as well as advanced munitions like the maritime-strike Tomahawk, the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, and the newly-anti-ship-capable SM-6 missile – in which we’re investing nearly $3 billion to maximize production over the next five years.  We’re emphasizing lethality in our Navy with new weapons and high-end ships, and by extending our commanding lead in undersea warfare – with new investments in unmanned undersea vehicles, for example, and more submarines with the versatile Virginia Payload Module that triples their strike capacity from 12 Tomahawks to 40 Tomahawks.  And we’re doing more in cyber, electronic warfare, and space – investing in these three domains a combined total of $34 billion in 2017 to, among other things, help build our cyber mission force, develop next-generation electronic jammers, and prepare for the possibility of a conflict that extends into space.  In short, DoD will continue to ensure our dominance in all domains.

As we do this, our budget also seizes opportunities for the future.  That’s a responsibility I have to all my successors – to ensure the military and the Defense Department they inherit is just as strong, just as fine, if not more so, than the one I have the privilege of leading today. 

That’s why we’re making increased investments in science and technology, and building new bridges to the amazing American innovative system – to stay ahead of future threats.  It’s why we’re also innovating operationally, making our contingency plans and operations more flexible and dynamic in every region.  It’s why we’re building what I’ve called the Force of the Future – because as good as our technology is, it’s nothing compared to our people, and in the future  we need to continue to recruit and retain the very best talent from future generations.  That’s also why we’re opening all combat positions to women, as well as doing more to support military families – to improve retention and also to expand our access to 100 percent of America’s population for our all-volunteer force.  And because we owe it to America’s taxpayers to spend our defense dollars as wisely and responsibly as possible, we’re also pushing for needed reforms across the DoD enterprise – from continuously improving acquisitions, to further reducing overhead, to proposing new changes to the Goldwater-Nichols Act that defines much of our institutional organization.

Let me close on the broader shift reflected in this budget.  We in the Defense Department don’t have the luxury of just one opponent, or the choice between current fights and future fights – we have to do both.  That’s what this budget is designed to do – and we need your help to succeed.

I thank this committee again for overwhelmingly supporting the Bipartisan Budget Act that set the size of our budget.  Our submission focuses on the budget’s shape.  We hope you approve it.  I know some may be looking at the difference between what we proposed last year and what we got in the budget deal, but I want to reiterate that we’ve mitigated that difference, and that this budget meets our needs.  That budget deal was a good deal – it gave us stability, and for that we remain grateful.  Doing something to jeopardize that stability would concern me deeply.  The greatest risk we face in the Department of Defense, DoD, is losing that stability this year, and having uncertainty and sequester and caps in future years.  That’s why going forward, the biggest concern to us strategically is Congress averting the return of sequestration next year so we can sustain all these critical investments over time.

We’ve done this before.  If we think back to historic defense investments that made our military more effective – and not only in technologies like GPS, the Internet, and satellite communications, but also in other areas, like especially the All-Volunteer Force – they were able to yield tremendous benefits because they garnered support across the aisle, across branches of government, and across multiple administrations.

That same support is essential today – to address the security challenges we face, and to seize the opportunities within our grasp.  As long as we work together to do so, I know our national security will be on the right path, and America’s military will continue to defend our country and help make a better world for generations to come.

Thank you.