Senator INHOFE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First, I want to join you in welcoming our guests and especially my friend, former Senator Hagel. We worked together for a long period of time, had some differences of opinion. We will always remain good friends.
The request comes at a time when our military is facing unprecedented challenges categorized by escalating threats abroad and a growing budget crisis here at home. Unfortunately, the budget before us today is symbolic for its lack of presidential leadership necessary to overcome the unprecedented challenges facing our military. And most troubling, the budget does not even acknowledge the mandatory cuts associated with sequestration in fiscal year 2014, much less propose a plan to replace the cuts that can actually pass Congress. This is not a new phenomenon. The defense budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty have become a hallmark of this administration. If you want to get into a lot more detail, I have an op-ed piece in this morning's Hill that gets into a lot more detail.
Since entering office over 4 years ago, the President has already cut over $600 billion from our military at a time non-security--and this is significant--non-security-related domestic spending has increased by nearly 30 percent.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently testified that
after absorbing over $400 billion in cuts, the military cannot afford to give another dollar if they are to maintain current capabilities. Our military leaders are warning that we are on the brink of creating a hollow force, unprepared to respond to contingencies around the world. Yet, according to the fiscal year 2014 budget request, the White House now feels that we can slice another $120 billion out of the Pentagon.
We are at the point in our Nation's history where our national military strategy is no longer guided by the threats we face or an honest assessment of the resources needed to protect our critical interests. Instead, the discussion in Washington has centered around how deeply we can cut defense. Our forces are now being asked to do more with less training, less equipment, less capability, no one assessing the increased risk on the battlefield and increased risk of our service men and women making ultimately the sacrifice. And this is unacceptable and the fiscal year 2014 budget does little to reverse this.
I think that Chairman Levin said it very well in talking about the dilemma that we are facing in our Services, the flying hours, the steaming hours. At a time our intelligence experts tell us that we face the most diverse, complex, and damaging threats to our National security in recent history, we are poised to slash defense budgets by over $1 trillion over that period of time.
We have made this mistake before in the military drawdowns in the 1970s and 1990s which left this country with a military too small to meet the instability and the rising threats of a changing world. We need to stop this stupid argument that runaway defense spending is what is driving our country's unsustainable debt. It is disingenuous and, more important, it is just wrong. Defense spending accounts for approximately 18 percent of the Federal spending annually while non-security mandatory spending accounts for 60 percent. We are on a path where an insatiable appetite to protect domestic spending and mandatory programs is consuming our defense budget and will soon result in a hollow military.
The commander in chief must take a lead in restoring certainty to our budgeting process and ensure that our military leaders have appropriate resources to develop and execute plans and manage the Department of Defense efficiently. I have repeated the warnings of Admiral Sandy Winfield, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, many times over the last 3 months, and this quote is an accurate quote which he has reaffirmed. Quote: I know of no other time in history when we have come potentially down this far, this fast in the defense budget. There could be, for the first time in my career, instances where we may be asked to respond to a crisis and we will have to say we cannot do it.
We have got to correct this, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman LEVIN. Thank you very much, Senator Inhofe.
Secretary Hagel, welcome.