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Dempsey: Budget Balances Security, Fiscal Responsibilities

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2014 – The Defense Department’s fiscal year 2015 budget request is a pragmatic document that balances America's national security and fiscal responsibilities, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee this morning.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifies on the Defense Department's fiscal year 2015 budget request as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel looks on before the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee in Washington, D.C., March 13, 2014. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey stressed that the budget request helps the United States field the world's finest military, even as it transitions to a smaller and more affordable force.

Service members are experts at handling change, the chairman said, but they do not like uncertainty and piecemeal solutions. "They want - and they deserve - predictability," Dempsey said.

The budget request provides the tools the force needs to accomplish its assigned missions, the chairman said, with money to begin rebuilding readiness for the short term and to modernize the force so it can confront the threats of the future. Modernization is needed to ensure the force gives leaders of tomorrow options for the nation, Dempsey said.

And the budget also reflects the reductions the department is making and the efforts needed to reduce the cost of doing business.

The request ensures the force is in the right balance, and that is crucial for the future, the chairman said.

Included in the budget request is a request to Congress for a new round of base realignments and closures in 2017. Dempsey pointed out to the House panel that the Defense Department has infrastructure it does not need. "With your support,” he added, “we ought to be able to divest."

The department also has legacy systems it cannot afford and needs to retire, the chairman said, adding that growth in personnel costs needs to be reined in. "We have personnel costs that have grown at a disproportionate rate,” he said, “and we ought to be able to slow the rate in a way that makes the all-volunteer force more sustainable over time."

The general again emphasized the balance that the budget request represents. "If we don't move toward a sounder way to steward our nation's defense, we face unbalanced cuts to readiness and modernization," Dempsey said. "These imbalances ultimately make our force less effective in what the nation needs." Leaders cannot ignore this, he added.

"Kicking the can will set up our successors for an almost impossible problem," the general said. "We have to take the long view here."

Leaders used the defense strategic guidance published in 2012 to craft the 2015 budget request, and it conforms with the strategy published this month in the Quadrennial Defense Review, the chairman noted. "I support the QDR and this budget," Dempsey declared flatly.

Even if Congress approves the budget request as written, Dempsey said, there will be higher risks to America in some areas. "Under certain circumstances, we could be limited by capability, capacity or readiness in the conduct of an assigned mission," the general said. "I expect more difficult conventional fights."

If sequester-level cuts return in fiscal 2016 as law currently requires, the risks will grow and the options the military can provide the nation will shrink, the chairman said. "That's a gamble none of us should be willing to take," he told the House panel.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)

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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

Related Sites:
Special Report: Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal
Special Report: 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review

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