Budget Request Represents Responsible Investment, Dempsey Says
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2012 President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2013 defense budget proposal represents a responsible investment in the nation’s security, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Testifying with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told the committee that at its core, the budget is “an investment in people … who serve this nation in our military.”
The chairman urged the senators to consider the budget request in context, as opposed to focusing on individual provisions without considering their effect on others, and to understand that it’s just one stage of a long-term process.
“First, this budget must be considered holistically,” Dempsey said. “I caution against viewing its programs in isolation, because it represents a comprehensive, carefully devised set of decisions. It achieves balance among force structure, modernization, pay and benefits. Changes that are not informed by this context risk upending the balance and compromising the force.”
Secondly, the chairman told the panel, the fiscal 2013 budget request represents a waypoint, not an endpoint, in the development of the joint force the nation will need in 2020 and beyond.
“It puts us on a path to restore versatility at an affordable cost,” he said. “Specialized capabilities, once on the margins, become more central -- even while we retain conventional overmatch. It builds a global and networked joint force that is ably led and always ready.”
The chairman also noted the budget request honors commitments the nation has made to service members and their families.
“It does keep faith with them,” Dempsey said. “There are no freezes or reductions in pay. There’s no lessening in the quality of health care received by our active duty members and medically [retired] wounded warriors.”
That said, the chairman added, the increasing costs of pay and benefits will need to be addressed in a responsible way. “To manage costs, we need pragmatic reforms,” he said. “All of this can be done in a way that preserves our ability to recruit and retain America’s talented youth.”
All strategies and the budgets designed to carry them out carry inherent risks, Dempsey said.
“This one is no different,” he added. “In my judgment, the risk lies not in what we can do, but how often we can do it. This budget helps buy down this risk by investing in our people and the joint capabilities they most need.”
Dempsey assured the senators that he and Defense Secretary Panetta fully support the president’s budget proposal.
“Faced with the reality of a new fiscal environment,” he said, “we took a look at our strategy and we made what we thought were important adjustments to it -- not just based on the new fiscal reality, but also based on the lessons of 10 years of war and where we thought the security environment would take us in the out years.”
The chairman noted that deliberations in building the fiscal 2013 budget request took place with an eye on the future.
“As you know, I'm an advocate of looking beyond this particular budget submission out to 2020,” he said. “And we did that not only [with] the service chiefs, but also with the combatant commanders. And then, having decided on what adjustments to make to our strategy, we built a budget to support it. And so, for that reason, we support it.”
Dempsey told the senators he doesn’t believe the budget proposal incurs unacceptable risk, but that a hollow force would result if a “sequestration” provision in the budget law doubles projected defense spending cuts over the next decade.
“In this budget, we have decided to off-ramp a certain number of servicemen and women,” he explained. “And we've about maxed out our ability to do that with the proper dignity and respect to the force.” Challenges posed by the costs of infrastructure may require more base realignments and closures, he added.
If the Defense Department can’t ask service members to leave quicker or adjust infrastructure, the chairman said, the limiting effects of sequestration become evident.
“Sequestration leaves me three places to go to find the additional money: operations, maintenance and training,” he said. “That's the definition of a hollow force.”