England, Giambastiani Defend Budget in House
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2006 Though the president's 2006 defense budget request is "a lot of money," the deputy secretary of defense told the House Budget Committee here today, it is needed to protect America.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani testified that the $439.3 billion request is about 7 percent over the budget that was enacted in 2006, and will ensure the U.S. military has the tools to handle any contingency.
"We are a nation at war, and this war is indeed a daily reality for our men and women in uniform who are stationed around the world or serving here at home defending freedom and liberty along with our friends and allies," England said.
The U.S. military faces an enemy today that is a dispersed network of terrorist extremists. "This enemy's adaptable, relentless and will continue the attack whenever and wherever he finds the opportunity," England said. "We did not choose this fight, but we also do not have the option of walking away."
The budget helps prepare the military to handle these groups. "Guarding against this threat and preparing for the possible consequences of a (weapons of mass destruction) event require new technologies, new skills as well as enhanced counterproliferation efforts," he said. "The nation also faces a possibility that a major or emerging power could choose a hostile course. Accordingly, it is important that we shape the force to discourage a peer military competitor and to be able to defeat such a military, if necessary."
Giambastiani told the representatives that with this budget the U.S. military can execute "every part of your National Military Strategy." The budget request supports prosecuting the war on terror, accelerates military transformation, enhances joint warfighting and improves the quality of life of troops and their families, he said.
The admiral reminded the committee that the United States is fighting with an all-volunteer force. Attracting and retaining quality people is more important than ever, he said. "The fact that it will be a long war amplifies this very consideration," he said. "Although we are on new ground in some respects, experience teaches us that we attract individuals, but we retain entire families inside the military."
Giambastiani asked the committee members to maintain the benefit that is the military health care system. "The cost of that benefit has increased substantially since it was authorized in 1995," he said. "Despite this increase, there have been no premium changes in this program since 1995 when you instituted it. At that time, the cost to the individual was about 27 percent of the actual medical cost. Today the cost is about 12 percent."
He said all of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff "want to see this program sustained and going forward. Because of that, and our belief that the cost to the individual was reasonable in 1995, we recommend that you 'renorm' to 2006 the cost shares that we had in 1995 when you, Congress, instituted this program."