There is a coming bow wave of defense procurement that Congress must adequately fund, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee here today.
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. testified on the fiscal year 2017 defense department budget request of $583 billion. That funding will enable the joint force to confront today’s threats and plan for the future, the chairman said.
Dunford’s expressed his working premise on the budget succinctly.
“I don't believe we ever should send Americans into a fair fight,” he said.
The United States has a requirement to maintain joint forces that have the capability and credibility to assure allies and partners, deter aggression, and overmatch any potential adversary, the chairman said. “This requires us to continually improve our joint warfighting capabilities, restore full spectrum readiness and develop the leaders who will serve as the foundation for the future,” he said.
Dunford, who testified alongside Defense Secretary Ash Carter, said America is confronted with a plethora of threats from state and non-state actors. The five strategic challenges, he said, are Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and defeating extremism.
“Russia, China, Iran and North Korea continue to invest in military capabilities that reduce our competitive advantage,” the chairman said. “They are also advancing their interests through competition with a military dimension that falls short of traditional armed conflict and the threshold for a traditional military response.”
Russia’s actions in annexing Crimea and actions in Eastern Ukraine and China’s militarization of the South China Sea are two examples of this, Dunford said, noting that Iran’s malign activity across the Middle East is another.
“At the same time, non-state actors such as [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and al-Qaida pose a threat to the homeland, the American people, our partners and our allies,” he said. “Given the opportunity, such extremist groups would fundamentally change our way of life.”
On top of these threats is the need to modernize the nation’s nuclear deterrent, and the need to keep conventional forces capable, ready and agile, the general said.
Space, Cyber Domain
Potential adversaries are also increasingly contesting the United States in space and the cyber domain, the chairman said.
“As the joint force acts to mitigate and respond to challenges, we do so in the context of a fiscal environment that has hampered our ability to plan and allocate resources most effectively,” Dunford said. “Despite partial relief by Congress from sequester-level funding, the department has absorbed $800 billion in cuts and faces an additional $100 billion of sequestration-induced risk through fiscal year ’21.”
The cuts that have already happened have “resulted in our underinvesting in critical capabilities,” the general said. “And unless we reverse sequestration, we will be unable to execute the current defense strategy, and specifically unable to address the challenges that Secretary Carter outlined.”
The fiscal year 2017 defense budget request begins to address the most critical investments required, he said. “To the extent possible within the resources provided by the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, it addresses the department’s five challenges,” he said. “It does so by balancing three major areas: investment in high-end capabilities, the capability and capacity to meet current operational demands, and the need to rebuild readiness after an extended period of war.”
Congress must provide adequate, predictable funding for the years ahead for the American military to recover from 15 years of war and plan for the future, the chairman said.
“A bow wave of procurement requirements in the future include the Ohio-class submarine replacement, continued cyber and space investments and the long-range strike bomber,” he said. “It will also be several years before we fully restore full spectrum readiness across the services and replenish our stocks of critical precision munitions.”
The fiscal year 2017 DoD budget proposal puts the military on the right trajectory, the general said, but it will need continued congressional support to ensure “the joint force has the depth, flexibility, readiness and responsiveness that ensures our men and women never face a fair fight.”