Bennett and Senate Republicans Ask Secretary Gates for Answers on Defense Cuts in Obama's Budget
Warns that cutting funding for troops is not the way to cut corners
Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) today and 13 of his Senate Republican colleagues sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressing serious concerns about President Obama's budget and the significant decrease in defense funding.
"President Obama has said that he plans to increase our troop presence in Afghanistan, but what we have seen and read in reports indicate that his budget may reduce defense funding," said Bennett, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. "The Obama budget will run up our national credit card to levels never before seen in our history, and while we must make difficult cuts in some areas, I believe that slashing funding for our troops is not where we should be cutting corners. It is critical that Congress receive more details on where the administration intends to decrease defense spending and how it plans to adequately equip our military to ensure its safety and the safety of our country."
The administration's plan could potentially delay or cancel numerous high-priority weapon systems and may decrease the emphasis on national security as a funding priority. President Obama's budget has not been officially submitted to Congress. The administration has only revealed an outline of the budget. In the letter to Secretary Gates, the 11 senators urge the Department of Defense to provide detailed information on the defense budget for Fiscal Year 2010.
"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," wrote the senators in the letter to Secretary Gates.
The full text of the letter is below and a copy is attached.
The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
Dear Secretary Gates:
We write today to express serious concern about the administration's planned 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 dedication to its Armed Forces.
United States Senator (R-Texas)
United States Senator (R-Utah)
United States Senator (R-Ariz.)
United States Senator (R-Alaska)
JAMES M. INHOFE
United States Senator (R-Okla.)
United States Senator (R-S.D.)
United States Senator (R-Ga.)
United States Senator (R-S.C)
United States Senator (R-Ga.)
United States Senator (R-Miss.)
United States Senator (R-La.)
United States Senator (R-N.C)
United States Senator (R-Ala.)
KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON
United States Senator (R-Texas)