USA — Programs Will Suffer Without Adequate Funding, Mullen Says

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)

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