Congressman Visclosky delivered an opening statement before a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee on Defense this morning. The panel heard testimony from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey, and Undersecretary of Defense Robert Hale.
Secretary Hagel spoke to the reality that failing to replace sequestration would result in further steep cuts to critical defense priorities in 2014. The Department faces the responsibility of reducing its budget by $41 billion to cope with sequestration.
Visclosky's remarks, as prepared for testimony, can be read below:
OPENING STATEMENT--PETER J. VISCLOSKY
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HEARING
APRIL 16, 2013
Thank you Chairman Young.
Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey welcome to today's hearing. Your testimony is vitally important to the Committee's deliberations.
This is a difficult period for the Department of Defense and for all Federal Departments and agencies. Secretary Hagel, as you take on the responsibilities of Defense Secretary one of your first tasks is coping with sequestration. We note that a significant portion of your prepared testimony is devoted to this problem, and we understand DoD will have to find $41 billion in reductions for this purpose.
The Committee recognizes you are about to take a number of painful actions in this regard including:
- Furloughing most civilian employees for up to 14 days;
- Curtailing readiness-related training for a large percentage of domestically-based aircraft, and reducing training such as rotations to the National Training Center; and
- Canceling deployments for a number of Navy ships including the USS Harry S. Truman that was scheduled to deploy in February.
Aside of sequestration, we recognize this budget comes at a time of enduring fiscal challenges.
The budget protects personnel by including a modest pay raise, increasing housing and subsistence allowances, and requesting $8.5 billion in family related programs. The budget also proposes increased enrollment fees and co-payments in the Defense Health Program. We look forward to working in partnership with you on how to strike a balance between supporting personnel while, at the same time, controlling costs in this segment of the budget.
We also note that the procurement and research and development accounts are reduced, and bear much of the burden of meeting fiscal constrains in this request. These reductions are necessary, but we wonder what affect they will have on long-term DoD requirements. As investments in equipment and research decline we are also concerned about the affect this will have on the defense industrial base.
We continue to face threats overseas as well.
After 12 years of conflict in Afghanistan, we are about to transfer control of security operations to the Afghans and assume a supporting role as US military presence declines. We are interested in your views on whether the Afghans are rising to this challenge, and what military objectives US troops can achieve in the coming years. We are also interested in your assessment of the post-2014 force and the objectives for our troops in that setting.
We also face significant challenges in the Asia Pacific region including the threat posed by North Korea. We recognize the budget places a high priority on programs to address this threat and that you are now positioning forces for this purpose. We look forward to your views on how to best respond to the challenges in the Asia-Pacific region.
Gentlemen, we thank you for your many years of service, and we look forward to your testimony.