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Hearing of the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Committee on Armed Services: Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Budget Request on Overview of Recruiting, Retention and Compensation

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Location: Washington, DC

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REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D-PA): Thanks, gentlemen, for your service to our country.

And General Newton, welcome to the port here. My brother is actually about to deploy overseas in the Air Force -- he's a major -- this weekend. So keep doing the great job, we appreciate it.

GEN. NEWTON: Thank you.

REP. MURPHY: Gentlemen, I spoke before, I remember, last year when you testified and I talked about after I came back from my first deployment when I was on active duty how I helped with the recruiting efforts up at West Point and then up in New York. I'm concerned, though, about what the chairwoman said about the supplemental. As you know, we gave the money, the $3.8 billion which was in the base, but then the $1.8 billion for the supplemental, and I know last year -- in the testimony I mentioned to all of you about my concerns with the supplemental.

I happen to be one of those Blue Dog Democrats, fiscal conservatives, and I want to make sure that we are wrapping our arms around the budget process and cutting out fraud, waste and abuse. But I was told last year and the testimony was the Marine Corps said it was their goal to have everything in the baseline by fiscal year 2008, and the Army said it was going to be their goal to get as much in the base budget as possible. You know, I just think that there's an excessive reliance on the supplemental spending. And I know that was against what the pledge was originally with the new secretary of Defense, and I just want to make sure that we correct this.

And I'm happy that, General Rochelle, you said that by fiscal year 2010, that's terrific.

On very specific instances, that not having the predictability of what recruitment funding is going to be, how it hurts your efforts to recruit, and if you could all describe that, I'd appreciate it.

MR. CHU: Let me defer to my colleagues, but I do think the department is very sensitive to the need to execute well on recruiting programs. We report monthly to the secretary of Defense in some detail, where do we stand. I know the secretary of the Army has made a practice of taking what the military likes to call a deep dive into recruiting matters. We know we're being held to account and we have partnered with our financial colleagues trying to make sure that there is enough cash on hand to execute well and we will not be hobbled by this structure. But I defer to my colleagues.

REP. MURPHY: Well, then, Dr. Chu, before they comment, in your testimony I copied down, it says, you know, when you have these in the baseline budgets, and not relying on the supplemental, that it's easier for you to move forward. But you also mention then, I want to talk about it, you said it's above your pay grade. So can you -- you know, you say you report once a month, but where does that --

MR. CHU: Well, the president's budget request is the president's budget request. It is the product, as you appreciate, of everyone's advice as to how we should move forward, both substantively and in terms of financing vehicle. This is -- the supplemental issue is essentially a financing issue, not a matter of our intent. What I would underscore in terms of execution is we all understand that we need to use money in a variety of accounts to ensure recruiting and retention within the appropriation purpose, statues, et cetera, I should rush to emphasize. But we need to use the monies available to ensure that recruiting stays on the right path. We had an energetic conversation with our financial colleagues to make sure that happens.

That all said, that's an additional effort. That means more liaison, more care, more focus. It would, of course, from our perspective as the manpower community, it would be easier to have it in the base budget. That's certainly true. However, we are executing well with the structure we have. As General Rochelle testified, the Army is moving to put more in the base budget. I think the department as a whole is moving to put more of what I view as the ongoing program base budget as a strategic matter. It will not all happen in one year.

REP. MURPHY: So is it accurate to say that you're moving toward that and your higher chain of command is not moving toward having it in the base budget?

MR. CHU: No, no, that would not be fair at all. The higher chain of command understands we've got to put more in the base budget. It won't all happen at once. There's excess demand to go in the base budget. That's the truthful situation.

REP. MURPHY: But Dr. Chu, who in the Department of Defense cannot foresee that there's going to be recruitment challenges? We've had this. We've all know about the recruitment challenges that we face. We all know about, well, it was already mentioned earlier -- I mean, who couldn't foresee that we're going to have challenges?

MR. CHU: We all know that it is a challenging recruiting environment. This is a question of how is it financed, not what are we proposing to do.

REP. MURPHY: So--

MR. CHU: A most useful step at this juncture would actually be the prompt enactment of the second half of the global war on terrorism funding for fiscal 2008. That's where we really need to focus right now, not how did the budget originally get presented.

REP. MURPHY: Well, that's the easy solution then. And there's no one on this committee that doesn't support the military and want to give you every single dime that we can give you. I think that where the rub is, Dr. Chu, would be the fact that every single year we ask you to give us the projections for the year what you need, anticipating -- well, leadership is anticipating where the challenges are going to come from and anticipate that, and so we can have the hearings and have the proper oversight that we need to do, and we ask this year after year and we're not getting it.

MR. CHU: I think we have provided that. I think had the global war on terrorism funding tranche been all appropriated at once earlier on, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

REP. MURPHY: I mean there's a rub, though, Dr. Chu, with ($)3.8 billion, which was in the base, and an additional ($)1.8 billion, which is almost 50 percent more, in a supplemental.

MR. CHU: And that request was forwarded early to the Congress. It is now on the Congress's -- (inaudible) -- act.

REP. MURPHY: Through a supplemental -- through a supplemental, Dr. Chu.

MR. CHU: Absolutely correct.

REP. MURPHY: Okay, okay. So, if I could ask the different departments. If you can just give me, so I can understand better, where this rub hurts you as far as where you can't perceive the challenges when you don't have the funds up front in the base?

ADM. HARVEY: Sir, in the Navy we have a base of about ($)217 million with about 120 (million dollars) that comes in the supplemental. But what I have done with folks who control the actual flow of the dollars, whatever organization, we laid out in our annual program and I said I'm executing on the assumption that I will have this money. And so the agreement we've had is that among equals and claims on supplemental dollars, the money comes my way first to maintain the essential people programs, in this case the recruiting programs. So I operate as if I have the full amount in hand. We lay out our advertise -- and it's all for advertising that's trying to counteract the drastic drop in propensity that has occurred over the last five years.

So we lay out our plan and operate on the assumption that the money will be forthcoming when we need it.

REP. DAVIS: Excuse me, Mr. Murphy, I know you've gone over your time and this is always difficult because we actually do want to hear from all of you. I'm going to go ahead and if there are any very specific comments that you'd like to make on this, we'll go ahead and hear that, and perhaps come back later on, and then Ms. Drake has a question, I know.

Any specific example or concern that comes to mind that you really want to relate? No. Okay.

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