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Posture Statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee (Washington, D.C.)

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, February 06, 2008
         Thank you, Mr. Chairman.    Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, it is a pleasure to be here for my second and last posture statement.  
         Let me first thank you for your continued support for our military these many years. I appreciate the opportunity today to discuss the president's Fiscal Year 2009 Defense budget request. 
         Before getting into the components of the request, I thought it might be useful to consider it quickly in light of the current strategic landscape, a landscape still being shaped by forces unleashed by the end of the Cold War nearly two decades ago. In recent years old hatreds and conflicts have combined with new threats and forces of instability -- challenges made more dangerous and prolific by modern technology. Among them: terrorism, extremism and violent jihadism; ethnic, tribal and sectarian conflict; proliferation of dangerous weapons and materials; failed and failing states; nations discontented with their role in the international order; and rising and resurgent powers whose future paths are uncertain. 
         In light of this strategic environment, we must make the choices and investments necessary to protect the security, prosperity and freedom of Americans for the next generation. 
         The investment in Defense spending being presented today is $515.4 billion, or about 4 percent of our gross domestic product when combined with war costs. This compares to spending levels of 14 percent of gross domestic product during the Korean War and 9 percent during Vietnam. Our FY 2009 request is a 7.5 percent increase, or $35.9 billion, over last year's enacted level. When accounting for inflation, this translates into a real increase of about 5-1/2 percent. 
        The difference consists of four main categories which are outlined in more detail in my submitted station -- statement.
         Overall, the budget includes $183.8 billion for overall strategic modernization, including $104 billion for procurement, to sustain our nation's technological advantage over current and future adversaries; $158.3 billion for operations, readiness and support to maintain a skilled and agile fighting force; $149.4 billion to enhance quality of life for our men and women in uniform by providing the pay, benefits, health care and other services earned by our all-volunteer force; and $20.5 billion to increase ground capabilities by growing the Army and the Marine Corps.
         This budget includes new funding for critical ongoing initiatives such as global train-and-equip to build the security capacity of partner nations, security and stabilization assistance, foreign language capabilities, and the new Africa Command.
         In summary, this request provides the resources needed to respond to current threats while preparing for a range of conventional and irregular challenges that our nation may face in the years ahead.
         In addition to the 515 billion -- $515.4 billion base budget, our request includes $70 billion in emergency bridge funding that would cover war costs in the next -- into the next calendar year. A more detailed request will be submitted later this year, when the department has a better picture of what level of funding will be needed.
         The 2007 National Defense Authorization Act, as you have pointed out, requires the Department of Defense to provide an estimate of costs for the global war on terror. We would like to be responsive to the request. Indeed, I was responsive to a similar request last year. Some have alleged that the administration has taken this position in order to somehow hide the true costs of the war. Nothing could be further from the truth. The department has been very open about what we know about our costs, as well as what we don't know. So the challenge we face is that a realistic or meaningful estimate requires answers to questions that we don't yet know, such as when and if the department will receive the requested $102 billion balance of the FY 2008 supplemental war request, and for how much; and what, if any, adjustment to troop levels in Iraq will result from the upcoming recommendations of General Petraeus, Central Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We should also keep in mind that nearly three-    quarters of the FY 2009 supplemental request will likely be spent in the next administration, thus making it even more difficult to make an accurate projection.
         I've worked hard during my time in this job to be responsive and transparent to this committee and to the Congress. Nothing has changed. But while I would like to be in a position to give you a realistic estimate of what the department will need for the FY 2009 supplemental funds, I simply cannot at this point.
        There are too many significant variables in play. 
         I can give you a number -- I will give you a number if you wish, but I will tell you that the number will inevitably be wrong, and perhaps significantly so. So I will be giving you precision without accuracy. As I mentioned earlier, Congress has yet to appropriate the remaining balance of the FY 2008 war funding request, $102.5 billion. The delay is degrading our ability to operate and sustain the force at home and in the theater, and is making it difficult to manage this department in a way that is fiscally sound. The Department of Defense, as I've said, is like the world's biggest supertanker. It cannot turn on a dime and cannot be steered like a skiff. I urge approval of the FY 2008 request as quickly as possible. 
         Finally, I would like to thank the members of this committee for all you have done to support our troops as well as their families. I thank you specifically for your attention to and support of efforts to improve the treatment of wounded warriors over the past year. In visits to the combat theaters, in military hospitals, and in bases and posts at home and around the world, I continue to be amazed by the decency, resilience, and courage of our troops. Through the support of the Congress and our nation, these young men and women will prevail in the current conflicts and be prepared to confront the threats that they, their children, and our nation may face in the future. 
         Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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