“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I join you in welcoming our witnesses and thank them for their many years of dedicated service to our nation.
“The purpose of our hearing today is to discuss the Fiscal Year 2014 budget request for the Defense Department. This request comes at a time when our military is facing unprecedented challenges categorized by escalating threats abroad and a brewing budget crisis here at home. Our military desperately needs for their Commander-in-Chief to exhibit the necessary leadership to put forth a defense budget that addresses this harsh reality. Unfortunately, in this regard, the budget before us today is woefully lacking. This budget is symbolic for its lack of presidential leadership. It is a budget absent of the leadership necessary to overcome the unprecedented resource challenges facing our military. And most troubling, the budget does not even acknowledge the mandatory cuts associated with sequestration, much less propose a plan to replace the cuts that can actually pass Congress. How can we in the Senate take this budget seriously when it willingly disregards reality and plagues our military leaders with continued uncertainty?
“This isn’t a new phenomenon. Defense budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty have become a hallmark of this administration. Since entering office over four years ago, President Obama has shown cavalier-like ease in cutting the Pentagon. The president has cut over $600 billion from our military budget, yet non-security related domestic spending has increased by nearly 30 percent. Syphoning defense funding away to fuel an astounding growth in government programs is significantly undermining the future reach of our military and has left zero-margin for uncertainty or strategic surprise—characteristics that epitomize the current global security environment.
“The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently testified that, after absorbing over $600 billion in cuts, the military cannot afford to give another dollar if they are to maintain current capabilities. Our military leaders are warning that we are on the brink of creating a hollow force unprepared to respond to contingencies around the world. Yet, according to FY14 budget request, the White House now feels they can slice another $120 billion out of the Pentagon.
“We are at the point in our nation’s history where our national military strategy developed to secure our nation’s interests is no longer guided by the threats we face or an honest assessment of the resources needed to protect our critical interests. Instead, the discussion in Washington has been centered on how deeply we can cut defense. Our forces are now being asked to do more with less training, less equipment and less capabilities. No one is assessing the increased risk on the battlefield and an increased risk of our service men and women making the ultimate sacrifice. This is unacceptable.
“Our nation has a mismatch between the missions and capabilities we expect our Armed Forces to maintain and the budget resources provided to them. The FY14 budget does little to reverse this troubling trend. At a time when our national intelligence experts tell us that we face the most diverse, complex, and potentially damaging threats to our national security in recent history, we are poised to slash defense budgets by over a trillion dollars. We’ve made this mistake before. The military drawdowns of the 1970s and 1990s were budget-driven follies intended to realize a peace dividend that proved short-lived. It left the country with a military too small to meet the instability and rising threats of a changing world.
“We need to stop this foolhardy argument that “runaway” defense spending is what’s driving our country’s unsustainable debt. It’s disingenuous and, more importantly, it’s wrong. Defense spending accounts for approximately 18 percent of federal spending annually, while non-security mandatory spending accounts for 60 percent.
“We must provide the resources necessary to maintain our status as a global superpower with the strongest military in the world to deter any adversary and protect our nation from the full range of critical threats. As our military leaders have repeatedly testified, we are not on a fiscal path to achieve this objective. Instead, we are on a path where an insatiable appetite to protect domestic spending and mandatory programs is consuming our defense budget and will soon result in a hollow military. These short-sighted cuts to defense capabilities will not protect our national interests. Rather, a weakened U.S. military will only embolden our adversaries and threaten the safety of our citizens both at home and abroad.
“The Commander-in-Chief must take the lead in restoring certainty to our budgeting process, and ensure that our military leaders have appropriate resources to develop and execute plans and manage the Department of Defense efficiently.
“Our hearing today is an opportunity to evaluate this strategy versus resources mismatch. It is an opportunity to understand what we as a nation may no longer be able to call upon our military to accomplish. I have repeated the warnings of Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, many times over the last three months (quote) “I know of no other time in history when we have come potentially down this far, this fast, in the defense budget. There could be, for the first time in my career, instances where we may be asked to respond to a crisis and we will have to say that we cannot.”
“The inaction by the president and the failure of our government, lends credibility to this statement as we are now being forced to rethink the future reach of our military. I hope both of our witnesses will agree that this trajectory is unacceptable and pledge to work with Congress and the president to overcome sequester of the Defense Department. Our men and women in uniform, the American people, and our friends around the world deserve better than sequestration and it is our shared responsibility – both the president and the Congress – to ensure that it is replaced.
“As I have said before, we can, and must work this out. But to get there, the president must lead. The president must be pragmatic. And the president must set aside political posturing and finally get serious about working with Congress to find a lasting solution to the many challenges facing our military. The men and women in uniform deserve nothing less.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”