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Senate Appropriations Committee - Defense Opening Statement

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Room 192, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thank you Mr. Chairman, Senator Cochran, members of the committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the president’s budget requests for fiscal year 2011 for the Department of Defense.  I first want to thank you, as always, for your support of the men and women of the U.S. military for these many years.  I know they are uppermost in your thoughts as you deliberate on these budget requests.  Our troops are part of an extraordinary generation of young Americans who have answered their country’s call.  They have fought our country’s wars, protected our interests and allies around the globe, and they have demonstrated compassion and dedication in the face of tragedy and loss.

The budget requests being presented today include $549 billion for the base budget – a 3.4 percent increase over last year, or 1.8 percent real growth after adjusting for inflation, reflecting the administration’s commitment to modest, steady, and sustainable real growth in defense spending.  The base budget request was accompanied and informed by the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, which establishes strategic priorities and identifies key areas for needed investment.  The 2010 QDR and FY 2011 request build upon the substantial changes that the president made in the FY 2010 budget to allocate defense dollars more wisely and reform the department’s processes.

The base budget request reflects these major institutional priorities:

  • First, reaffirming and strengthening the nation’s commitment to care for the all-volunteer force, our greatest strategic asset;
  • Second, rebalancing America’s defense posture by emphasizing both the capabilities needed to prevail in irregular conflicts, and the capabilities that likely will be needed in the future; and
  • Third, continuing the department’s commitment to reform how the Department does business, especially in the area of acquisitions.

Building on the reforms of last year’s budget, the FY 2011 request takes additional steps aimed at programs that were excess or performing poorly.  They include:

  • Terminating the Navy EP(X) intelligence aircraft;
  • Ending the Third Generation Infrared Surveillance program;
  • Canceling the next generation CG(X) cruiser;
  • Terminating the Net Enabled Command and Control program;
  • Ending the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System due to cost overruns and performance concerns;
  • Completing the C-17 program and closing the production line, as multiple studies in recent years including an outside study mandated by the congress in 2008 show that the Air Force already has more of these aircraft than it needs; and
  • Ending the second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as whatever benefits might accrue are more than offset by excess costs, complexity, and associated risks.

Let me be very clear:  I will continue to strongly recommend that the president veto any legislation that sustains the continuation of the C-17 or the F-35 extra engine.  And given some recent commentary, let me explicit, it would be a serious mistake to believe the President would accept these unneeded programs simply because the authorization or appropriations legislation includes other provisions important to him and to this administration.

These reforms all require political will and a willingness to make hard choices. We are already beginning the next step in this process of reform as we prepare the fiscal 2012 budget.  Last month I called on the Pentagon to take a hard, unsparing look at how the department is staffed, organized and operated.  This initiative is not designed to reduce the defense topline.  I believe the current topline is the minimum needed to sustain a military at war and to protect our interests in the years to come in an ever more unstable and dangerous world.  Rather, my goal is to significantly reduce our overhead costs in order to free up the resources needed to sustain our force structure, to modernize, and create future combat capabilities while living within our current topline. 

To this end, the department has recently set a goal to find more than $100 billion in overhead savings over the five fiscal years starting in FY 2012.  No organization within the department, including my own office, will be excluded from these efforts.  All of the savings will be applied to fund personnel in units, force structure, and investment in future capabilities.  As a matter of principle and political reality, the Department of Defense cannot come to America’s elected representatives and ask for budget increases each year unless we have done a better job, indeed everything possible, to make every dollar count.

Finally, in order to support ongoing operations, we are also requesting $159 billion in FY 2011 to support Overseas Contingency Operations, primarily in Afghanistan and Iraq, plus $33 billion for the remainder of this fiscal year to support the added financial costs of the president’s new approach in Afghanistan.  The commitments made and programs funded in the OCO and supplemental requests demonstrate this administration’s determination to support our troops and commanders at the front so they can accomplish their critical missions and return home safely.

I discussed the Defense Department’s portion of the FY 2010 supplemental request before this committee in March, and sought its approval by spring to prevent costly and counterproductive disruptions to the department’s operations.  I am becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of progress on the supplemental, and strongly urge Congress to complete its work on the request as quickly as possible.  I appreciate the Senate’s action on this request, but if the supplemental is not enacted by the July 4th Congressional recess, we will have to begin planning to curtail defense operations.  Such planning is disruptive, can be costly, especially in time of war, and I ask your help in avoiding this action.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, my thanks to you and members of this committee again for all that you have done to support our troops and their families, especially in light of the unprecedented demands that have been placed on them.  I believe the choices made in these budget requests reflect America’s commitment to see that our forces have the tools they need to prevail in the wars we are in, while making the investments necessary to prepare for threats on or beyond the horizon. 

Thank you.

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