Transition, Uncertainty Make Budget Request Important, Fox Says
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 3, 2014 The Defense Department’s fiscal year 2015 budget submission is the most important budget proposal in a very long time, acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine H. Fox told airmen today at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine H. Fox delivers remarks to students and faculty of the Air War College on Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., April 3, 2014. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Before her remarks on the budget, Fox offered condolences to the victims and families affected by yesterday’s shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.
“As [Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel said last night, our thoughts and prayers, as well as those of all the senior leaders in the Army and across the department, are with the victims and their families,” she said.
Fox then explained why she believes the fiscal 2015 proposal is a “really, really important budget.”
“In my view, it is one of the most important budgets that the department has submitted in a very long time,” she said. “This budget is based on strategic imperatives that recognize a time of continued transition and uncertainty for our U.S. military in terms of its role and its missions and its available resources.”
After a decade dominated by protracted land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said, the military’s focus is on preparing to counter a variety of security threats and embracing opportunities on all points of the compass. President Barack Obama recognized America was getting close to that “historic inflection point” two years ago, she added, and issued strategic guidance to the Defense Department.
“These priorities,” she said, “as the recent 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review states, reflect our strategy of protecting the American homeland, building security globally by projecting U.S. influence, and deterring aggression and remaining to prepare to win decisively against an adversary should deterrence fail.”
Fox noted that the tenets of the strategic guidance weigh heavily in recent budget choices, and she revisited each point of the guidance before continuing.
“The world has not gotten less dangerous,” she said. “It has not gotten less turbulent. And it is not in less need of American leadership. In this budget, and in this drawdown, there is no pretense of a peace dividend, something that has always accompanied our previous drawdowns in the past.”
At the same time, she said, there’s a strong possibility of a return to sequester-level funding in fiscal 2016, and resources for national defense may not reach the levels envisioned to fully support the president’s strategy.
Fox said DOD leadership’s “stern warning” appeared to fall on deaf ears, giving Hagel “no choice but to prepare the department for an era when defense budgets could be significantly lower than expected, warranted or needed.”
Obama’s budget request would provide $115 billion over the next five years more than sequester-level funding would provide, Fox said. “The president and the secretary simply could not send a budget to [Capitol] Hill that did not support the nation’s strategic needs,” she added.
And the sequester-level budget does not provide a force large enough, ready enough or modern enough to meet those needs, Fox said. The current budget proposal provides a realistic request that would provide a sustainable path toward shaping a balanced force, she said, “a force able to protect the nation and fulfill the president’s strategy, albeit with some additional risk.”
The Defense Department seeks balance through a force that is sized with the available resources to keep it ready and modern, the acting deputy secretary said.
“To achieve a balanced force with this fiscal outlook, we really have no choice but to reduce the force structure, and we need to do that starting yesterday,” she said, acknowledging that shrinking the military contains real risks, because no matter how ready, modern or technologically advanced, it can go to fewer places and do fewer things.
“But attempting to retain a larger force in the face of potential sequester-level cuts would create a decade-long modernization holiday on top of the program cancellations that have already been made,” she added.
Fox said this budget submission is guided by history and past drawdowns following World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War, where force structure retained was outside of the defense budgets. “This forces the department to disproportionately cut into accounts that fund readiness and modernization, and therefore, [create] a hollowed force,” she explained. “This is why Secretary Hagel has chosen to reduce capacity.”
Turning to the Air Force’s future, Fox expressed gratitude on Hagel’s behalf and her own thanks to the airmen who have made “tremendous” sacrifices during the nation’s conflicts.
“I do feel -- increasingly every day -- that our nation forgets that we’re still at war,” she said. “I have great responsibility to share with you that our secretary, Secretary Hagel, and I have not forgotten. And we are very grateful [for] what you have done and are still doing in Afghanistan.
“I do see tremendous opportunities for our Air Force to contribute in securing our gains in Afghanistan,” Fox continued. “But also for keeping the piece in Korea, engaging in Africa, or delivering humanitarian relief to countless nations.”
In the future, Fox said, she believes the demands and opportunities will be endless going forward, “but so will the challenges.”
(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS)