WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2011 — Military programs will suffer if the Defense Department’s budget for fiscal 2011 isn’t passed immediately, the nation’s top military officer told the House Armed Services Committee here today.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed the warning issued by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that the Defense Department faces a crisis if it’s forced to continue operating under a continuing resolution with less money than it needs.
“Some programs may take years to recover if the continuing resolution is extended through the end of September,” the chairman said in prepared remarks.
“I urge you to pass the fiscal year 2011 defense bill immediately,” Mullen said. “Even at a reduced topline, it will provide us the tools we need to accomplish the bulk of the missions we have been assigned.”
Forging on with money from the continuing resolution, he said, “would not only reduce our account by $23 billion, it would deprive us of the flexibility we need to support our troops and their families.”
Mullen noted that the services have taken “disruptive, and in some cases, irreversible steps” to live within the confines of the continuing resolution, which “ultimately make us less effective at what we’re supposed to do for the nation.”
As a result of the shortfall, Mullen told the panel, the Navy did not buy a second Virginia-class submarine or the government-furnished equipment for another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer as planned. Further, he said, the Army and Marine Corps have curtailed or frozen civilian hiring.
“All the services are now prevented from issuing contracts for new major military construction projects,” Mullen told the committee members.
Speaking in support of President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2012 defense budget request, the chairman noted that Gates had told the committee what it will do and had led the effort to make those things possible.
“As the secretary laid out, this budget, combined with the efficiencies effort he led, provides for the well-being of our troops and families, … fully funds current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, … and helps balance global risk through streamlined organization, smarter acquisition and prudent modernization,” Mullen said.
The chairman said he and the service chiefs sent a rare “24-star letter” to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, expressing their unqualified support for the military health care program changes included in the president’s fiscal 2012 defense budget request.
“Please know that we will continue to invest wisely in critical care areas,” Mullen said, “to include research, diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues and traumatic brain injury, … enhanced access to health services … and new battlefield technologies.”
The defense budget also is critical, Mullen said, because global commitments have not shrunk.
“If anything, they have grown,” he said. “And the world is a lot less predictable now than we could ever have imagined.
“You need look no further than Tahrir Square [in Cairo] to see the truth in that,” he continued. “Foolhardy would it be for us to make hasty judgments about the benefits –- tangible and intangible –- that are to be derived from forging strong military relationships overseas, such as the one we enjoy with Egypt.”
Mullen said the Pentagon must do its part as the government struggles with finances. “I’ve long said we must not be exempt in the Defense Department from belt-tightening,” he told the House panel, “but in truth, there is little [that is] ‘discretionary’ about the security we provide our fellow citizens.” Cuts, he added, can go only so far without hollowing the force.
“In my view, then, this proposed budget builds on the balance we started to achieve last year and represents the best of both fiscal responsibility and sound national security,” the chairman said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)