Joint Chiefs Chairman Urges Passage of Fiscal 2009 Defense Budget
By Sgt. Sara Moore, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2008 The Defense Department will continue to need the support of Congress and the American public to sustain the success it has achieved in the war on terror so far -- success that, though impressive, is still tenuous, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.
Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, defending the $515.4 billion fiscal 2009 defense budget request President Bush submitted to Congress on Feb. 4. The budget includes a 3.4 percent military pay raise, a 2.9 percent civilian raise, money to continue to grow the Army and Marine Corps, and a funding increase to maintain readiness. The administration also requested a $70 billion emergency supplemental request for the war on terror in fiscal 2009.
Mullen noted that budgets are really a type of strategy, and this budget “reveals great balance in our strategy for the future -- a realization that, while we continue to fight and develop counterinsurgency warfare, we must also prepare for, build for, and train for a broad spectrum of traditional warfighting missions.”
To sustain the force and prepare for future requirements, this budget includes more than $180 billion for strategic modernization, including $3.6 billion for the Army to continue to develop future combat systems and another $3.5 billion to procure 20 more F-22 fighters and another $700 million in research and development, Mullen said. The budget also includes money to continue to build the next-generation aircraft carrier and guided-missile destroyer, increased spending on missile defense, funding to complete the stand-up of U.S. Africa Command, and more than $20 billion to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps.
Mullen acknowledged that the fiscal 2009 budget doesn’t include any big surprises, but said that is because the department has looked at all its requirements and has a good handle on where it should go fiscally.
The United States has made significant progress in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mullen said. In Iraq, violence is down, business is on the rise, and al Qaeda is on the run. He praised commanders on the ground for their innovative techniques and use of surge forces to improve security. Progress in Afghanistan has been mixed, but the coalition is doing all it can and the additional 3,000 Marines being sent there will make a big difference, he said.
But progress in both countries is still tenuous, and conditions on the ground could change at any time, he said.
Mullen also cautioned about long-term risks the United States faces to its security commitments around the world if the Defense Department doesn’t address the toll that ongoing combat operations are taking on military forces, gear and families.
“The well is deep, but it is not infinite,” he said.
DoD and Congress must work together to reduce Army deployments to 12 months from the present 15-month tours, restore the Marine Corps’ expeditionary capabilities, and stay dominant at sea, in space, and in cyberspace, Mullen said. Also, the department needs to do a better job at identifying and treating wounded servicemembers, especially those who suffer from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
The admiral also urged Congress to enhance quality of life for military family members by broadening federal hiring preferences for military spouses and expanding child care benefits.
The U.S. military is still the most powerful, capable force on Earth, Mullen said. This power is a testament to the brave, talented men and women who serve in the military, but also to the support of Congress and the American people, who have invested heavily in national defense, he said.
“We will continue to need that support, for however powerful we may be today, that power is not assured tomorrow,” Mullen said.