Mr. Chairman, Representative McHugh, members of the committee:
Thank you for inviting me to discuss the details of the President’s Fiscal Year 2010 defense budget. There is a tremendous amount of material here, and I know you have questions. So I will try to keep my opening remarks brief and focus on the strategy and thinking behind many of these recommendations. My submitted testimony has more detailed information on specific programmatic decisions.
First and foremost, this is a reform budget – reflecting lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet also addressing the range of other potential threats around the world, now and in the future.
As you may know, I was in Afghanistan last week. As we increase our presence there – and refocus our efforts with a new strategy – I wanted to get a sense from the ground level of the challenges and needs so that we can give our troops the equipment and support to be successful and come home safely. Indeed, listening to our troops and commanders – unvarnished and unscripted – has from the moment I took this job been the greatest single source for ideas on what the Department needs to do both operationally and institutionally. As I told a group of soldiers on Thursday, they have done their job. Now it is time for us in Washington to do ours. In many respects, this budget builds on all the meetings I have had with troops and commanders, and all that I have learned over the past two-and-a-half years – all underpinning this budget’s three principal objectives:
· First, to reaffirm our commitment to take care of the all-volunteer force, which, in my view, represents America’s greatest strategic asset; as Admiral Mullen says, if we don’t get the people part of our business right, none of the other decisions will matter;
· Second, to rebalance this department’s programs in order to institutionalize and enhance our capabilities to fight the wars we are in and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years ahead, while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks and contingencies; and
· Third, in order to do this, we must reform how and what we buy, meaning a fundamental overhaul of our approach to procurement, acquisition, and contracting.
From these priorities flow a number of strategic considerations, more of which are included in my submitted testimony.
The base budget request is for $533.8 billion for FY10 – a four percent increase over the FY09 enacted level. After inflation, that is 2.1 percent real growth. In addition, the Department’s budget request includes $130 billion to support overseas contingency operations, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I know that there has been discussion about whether this is, in fact, sufficient to maintain our defense posture – especially during a time of war. I believe that it is. Indeed, I have warned in the past that our nation must not do what we have done after previous times of conflict and slash defense spending. I can assure you that I will do everything in my power to prevent that from happening on my watch. This budget is intended to help steer the Department of Defense toward an acquisition and procurement strategy that is sustainable over the long term – that matches real requirements to needed and feasible capabilities.
As you know, this year we have funded the costs of the wars through the regular budgeting process – as opposed to emergency supplementals. By presenting this budget together, we hope to give a more accurate picture of the costs of the wars and also create a more unified budget process to decrease some of the churn usually associated with funding for the Defense Department.
This budget aims to alter many programs, and many of the fundamental ways that the Department of Defense runs its budgeting, acquisition, and procurement processes. In this respect, three key points come to mind about the strategic thinking behind these decisions.
First of all, sustainability. By that, I mean sustainability in light of current and potential fiscal constraints. It is simply not reasonable to expect the defense budget to continue increasing at the same rate it has over the last number of years. We should be able to secure our nation with a base budget of more than a half a trillion dollars – and I believe this budget focuses money where it can more effectively do just that.
I also mean sustainability of individual programs. Acquisition priorities have changed from defense secretary to defense secretary, administration to administration, and congress to congress. Eliminating waste, ending “requirements creep,” terminating programs that go too far outside the line, and bringing annual costs for individual programs down to more reasonable levels will reduce this friction.
Second, balance. We have to be prepared for the wars we are most likely to fight – not just the wars we have been traditionally best suited to fight, or threats we conjure up from potential adversaries who, in the real world, also have finite resources. As I’ve said before, even when considering challenges from nation-states with modern militaries, the answer is not necessarily buying more technologically advanced versions of what we built – on land, in the air, or at sea – to stop the Soviets during the Cold War.
Finally, there are all the lessons learned from the last eight years – on the battlefield and, perhaps just as importantly, institutionally back at the Pentagon. The responsibility of this department first and foremost is to fight and win wars – not just constantly prepare for them. In that respect, the conflicts we are in have revealed numerous problems that I am working to improve; and this budget makes real headway in that respect.
At the end of the day, this budget is less about numbers than it is about how the military thinks about the nature of warfare and prepares for the future. About how we take care of our people and institutionalize support for the warfighter for the long term. About the role of the services and how we can buy weapons as jointly as we fight. About reforming our requirements and acquisition processes.
I know that some of you will take issue with individual decisions. I would ask, however, that you look beyond specific programs, and instead at the full range of what we are trying to do – at the totality of the decisions and how they will change the way we prepare for and fight wars in the future.
As you consider this budget and specific programs, I would caution that each program decision is zero sum: a dollar spent for capabilities excess to our real needs is a dollar taken from a capability we do need – often to sustain our men and women in combat and bring them home safely.
Once again, I thank you for your ongoing support of our men and women in uniform. I look forward to your questions.