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More Value from Department of Defense

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the Budget Committee hearing, we had Secretary Hagel and Joint Chief of Staff Dempsey walk us through the impossible position that the Department of Defense has been placed in.

Now, I'll be the first to admit--as I think they would; in fact, they said as much in the hearing--that there are areas of opportunity for additional savings, and that the Department of Defense can itself do a better job.

When you have almost half of the world's military spending by the United States, even though we are only 5 percent of the world's population and less than a quarter of the world's economic might, we can and should be able to squeeze more value. But the problem is not so much that the Department of Defense isn't willing to come forward with changes that need to be made; a great part of this problem is Congress itself.

I have proposed, from the Department of Defense, that we actually close bases, that we reform compensation and health care, that we don't force weapons systems on the Department of Defense that the military doesn't want or need. These are things that gets Congress weak in the knees. It's time for us to step up to make sure that we are having the world's most powerful military, but that we are squeezing more value out of it.

One critical area that needs greater attention is our nuclear deterrent. We have far more nuclear weapons than we'd ever want, need, or could use. It's been 68 years since the United States used a nuclear weapon in war; and no matter what you do in terms of deterrence, there's no question that we don't have to blow the world up hundreds of times over to have that deterrent work. Yet, sadly, we are poised to spend almost three-quarters of a trillion dollars over the next 10 years.

The administration was forced by former Senator Kyl, as a concession for the START Treaty, to invest even more in weapons modernization. We need to step up and change that.

There are other details that need attention. When the military looked at a proposal to streamline the PX operation, where military families shop, there was a proposal by major retailers to provide exactly the same service, in many cases, equally convenient, saving a billion dollars; and yet the political pushback was such that the Pentagon turned away.

Now, dealing with things like military bands and the PX and NASCAR sponsorship are appropriate, but that's rounding error. Those are small items.

We need to deal with reforming the military, to deal with the new threats and challenges that are more serious and immediate and largely impervious to the major military footprint we've got. We need to start now, in partnership with the Department of Defense, to reduce the footprint, to restructure the force, and reform pay and benefits.

We were told yesterday that we can either reform TRICARE over the next 5 years, or we'll have 25,000 more troops to lay off. These proposals are stark, but they are immediate and they are real; and we should take advantage of them.

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