Sen. Inhofe and Colleagues Advocate for Robust Defense Budget

Sent letter to Secretary of Defense cautioning against reducing overall defense budget during the War on Terror and ending critical programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today joined Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and other Senate colleagues to send a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressing serious concerns about the administration’s defense budget for fiscal year 2010 and beyond, which appears to considerably reduce overall defense spending.  The administration’s plan could potentially require the cancellation or delay of numerous high-priority weapon systems and may indicate a decreased emphasis on national security as a priority. At a time when our nation is fighting the Global War on Terror on two major fronts overseas, the letter addresses the major expenses on the horizon for the Defense Department, including a substantial troop increase in Afghanistan and a withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq, and asks for an explanation of how these missions will be paid for since supplemental requests will apparently be significantly reduced. They also warn against embarking on a 1990s-style military “procurement holiday,” which could leave our Armed Forces without the necessary tools and capabilities to defend our nation against the full range of potential threats. Sens. Cornyn, Kyl, Murkowski, Thune, Isakson, DeMint, Chambliss, Wicker, Vitter, Bennett, Burr, Sessions and Hutchison joined Sen. Cornyn in sending the letter to Secretary Gates.

  

“We write today to express serious concern about the administration’s planned national defense spending in Fiscal Year 2010 and beyond, which appears to be insufficient to guarantee U.S. national security in the coming years.  Based on the administration’s budget documents submitted thus far, it appears that a marked decrease in overall defense spending is in store for our country.  If recent press accounts are accurate, this will be accomplished by canceling or postponing the acquisition of numerous major weapon systems critical to our Armed Forces and necessary to ensure their future ability to defend our country.

  

“[W]e request that your department provide us as soon as possible with more detailed information on what expenditures, and at what levels, you anticipate moving from the supplemental budget to the base defense budget for FY10 and what defense programs you anticipate eliminating or substantially reducing, in relation to the most recent Future Years Defense Program (FYDP).  In addition, it is essential that we hear from our uniformed combatant commanders and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the potential problems they will face in carrying out their responsibilities under the administration’s proposed defense spending blueprints,” Sen. Inhofe and his colleagues wrote.

  Background According to a GAO report released yesterday, “Iraq: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight,” pulling out 140,000 troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 will be a “massive and expensive effort.” Iraq-related expenditures during the withdrawal effort and several years after will be higher because of equipment repairs and replacements, as well as the closing of hundreds of U.S. military installations in Iraq. The report also details other challenges for the U.S. after the withdrawal and can be read here.

 

 --The full text of the letter is below-- The Honorable Robert GatesSecretary of Defense1000 Defense PentagonWashington, DC  20301-1000

 

 Dear Secretary Gates:

 

 We write today to express serious concern about the administration’s planned national defense spending in Fiscal Year 2010 and beyond, which appears to be insufficient to guarantee U.S. national security in the coming years.  Based on the administration’s budget documents submitted thus far, it appears that a marked decrease in overall defense spending is in store for our country.  If recent press accounts are accurate, this will be accomplished by canceling or postponing the acquisition of numerous major weapon systems critical to our Armed Forces and necessary to ensure their future ability to defend our country.

 

 

As Congress begins the Fiscal Year 2010 (FY10) budget process, it is our view that we have too little information on hand, based solely on the President's incomplete budget submission, to thoroughly and responsibly make decisions about top-line figures for the country's core defense program.  For example, it is widely reported that the administration intends to shift funding that is currently part of the supplemental budget process into the normal DoD appropriations request.  But, to date, Congress has not been told exactly what amount will be transferred, nor has it been informed about which particular programs will be affected.  This lack of information raises a number of important questions, with potentially troubling answers.

  

The President's plan to substantially increase U.S. military force levels in Afghanistan, while simultaneously withdrawing all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by August 2010, will require substantial funding.  However, it is our understanding that the administration will be requesting far less this year and next in supplemental funding, which is cause for great concern.  It is unclear how the administration, if it intends to cut supplemental funding, expects to maintain our military forces in the field and enable them to conduct their missions safely and effectively.  We would appreciate an explanation on this issue.

  

To be clear, we fully support efforts to maximize transparency in the budget process by including all foreseeable DoD requirements in the normal DoD budget request; however, by shifting major expenses from the supplemental requests to the base budget, while simultaneously slashing the supplemental request, the net effect would be a decrease in overall spending on our national defense.  Our concern is that, under the guise of an "honest budgeting" approach to national security spending, we would be locking in an overall cut in military spending that either puts our troops in jeopardy today or our national security in jeopardy tomorrow as we restrict urgently needed capital investments in equipment such as planes, ships, and land vehicles.

  As such, we request that your department provide us as soon as possible with more detailed information on what expenditures, and at what levels, you anticipate moving from the supplemental budget to the base defense budget for FY10 and what defense programs you anticipate eliminating or substantially reducing, in relation to the most recent Future Years Defense Program (FYDP).  In addition, it is essential that we hear from our uniformed combatant commanders and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the potential problems they will face in carrying out their responsibilities under the administration’s proposed defense spending blueprints.  Accordingly, we request that you provide us, as soon as possible, risk assessments by each combatant commander, evaluating to what extent the President's proposed defense spending levels will limit their ability to meet ongoing requirements over the lifetime of the FYDP.  Finally, we request that the Chairman’s risk assessment, which is statutorily required and is long overdue, be provided within 30 calendar days.

 

 

During the early part of this decade, it became clear that defense spending decisions made during the 1990s and the resulting military “procurement holiday” that our government had taken left our Armed Forces without the needed advanced equipment and superior capabilities to defend our nation.  Today, in the middle of a global war on terror, we must not allow that to happen again.  Now is not the time to attempt to cash in a “peace dividend,” while thousands of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are serving in harm’s way, engaged in military operations in two major theaters of conflict overseas, with other very real threats on the horizon.  

  

We urge you to examine these issues carefully as the administration completes work on its FY10 DoD budget request.  Thank you for your service to our nation and your tireless dedication to its Armed Forces.  

 

  Sincerely, 

 

Related Links: Inhofe on the Issues: 4% for Defense of Freedom Jim’s Journal: Politico: “Obama and His Democratic Allies are Scouring the Pentagon for Cuts.” ###