U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, gave opening remarks this afternoon at a SASC hearing on the posture of the Department of Defense.
Witnesses include: Dr. Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense, and General Mark Miley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As prepared for delivery:
Good afternoon. The Committee meets today to receive testimony on the Department of Defense fiscal year 2021 budget request. I welcome our witnesses and thank them for their service: Dr. Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense; and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
This Committee’s top priority is ensuring the effective implementation of the National Defense Strategy to compete with China and Russia. That includes making sure we have the budget and the resources to do so.
Unfortunately, under the last Administration, we asked our military to do more with less – and that got us into trouble. Between 2012 and 2017, we lost $550 billion to sequestration. Our defense budget and the readiness of our forces were devastated.
As a result, when President Trump came to office, he inherited an American military in crisis. Thankfully, he delivered on his promise to begin rebuilding the U.S. armed forces.
Last year, President Trump negotiated the highest level of defense spending ever — a down payment toward getting our military back to where it needs to be. But we have more work to do.
We face a more dangerous world than we did a decade ago. Since then, Russia invaded Crimea, backed Assad in Syria, sent mercenaries to Libya, and violated the INF treaty. China began building islands in the South China Sea, harassing its neighbors more frequently, and accelerating its military and nuclear modernization. Al Qaeda and ISIS multiplied on the African continent. North Korea and Iran continue to destabilize their regions, building long-range missiles, sowing terror, and advertising their nuclear intentions.
The bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission Report said if we’re going to adequately fund the National Defense Strategy and take on these threats, it’s going to take 3-5 percent growth – above inflation – each year.
That should mean a budget request of about $775 to $790 billion this year. Instead, we’ve got a budget agreement that provides $740.5 billion for all that we’ve got to do for our national defense.
This is a real decline of about $15 billion in buying power when you account for inflation. That shortfall continues over the next five years in this budget.
That’s not your fault. Congress needs to be more realistic about what it’s going to take to maintain a force capable of deterring and, if need be, defeating our enemies.
Plus, Congress has been unable to provide you with on-time appropriations for a decade running, except for one year.
Without adequate, on-time funding, we end up making shortsighted choices – choices that waste taxpayer dollars and put our security at risk.
A great case in point is in Africa, where the department is considering cutting from a mission that’s already under-resourced.
We’re trying to do more while spending less — and the math just doesn’t add up.
That’ s why you’re seeing so many stories now about why we can’t buy necessary equipment. That’s why we can’t do the training we need to. That’s why we can’t give our troops the tools they need to keep the peace.
A lot of Americans, they think our military has the best of everything. But right now, we don’t—in hypersonic weapons, artillery, 5G, and more. We’ve got a lot of bills coming due—bills decades in the making.
We can pay them now, or we can leave them for our children and grandchildren to pay. And they’ll be doing so in a more dangerous world if we don’t fix the budget trajectory we’re on.
I know you have tried to do the best you can within the limits of what you’ve been given, and I appreciate what you’ve already done to find savings. That’s hard to do with a decreasing budget, which we have today.
But there’s more that can be done. I look forward to continuing to work with you to make sure our troops have the resources they need to fight and win. Senator Reed.
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