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Hearing: Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2010 Budget

Ranking Member Paul Ryan Opening Statement

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Washington, Mar 18, 2009 | comments
Thank Chairman Spratt.

I’d also like to welcome our witness, Mr. Hale, who’s had a long and distinguished career working with the Defense budget – both at CBO, and as the Comptroller of the Air Force. I look forward to your testimony.

The Defense Department is our largest discretionary expenditure, and has seen robust growth over the last decade. This growth is understandable – and in my opinion, justified – by the fact we were attacked on September 11th.

But I am concerned that the President’s budget uses the FY2008 levels – the year of the surge, and most expensive of the war, as this chart shows – to create the illusion of savings. It does this by inflating its baseline to assume the surge level of spending continues every year for the next decade – and then claims $1.5 trillion in “savings” by not funding DoD at surge levels for the duration of this budget.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has clearly stated that he had no plans of spending at surge level over the next decade.

And Mr. Hale, as DoD’s chief numbers cruncher, your assumptions on this matter are also of great interest to this Committee.

As the President’s budget provides no detail below the topline, it’s difficult to understand its plans for DoD over the next decade. But the one thing we do know is that the budget assumes an average annual growth rate for National Defense of 2.4 percent. This compares to an average annual growth rate for non-defense discretionary programs of 3.3 percent.

Now, I can appreciate an attempt at “fiscal restraint” in the President’s budget, but I find it incredibly troubling that defense spending is the seemingly only place in which this effort was made. Providing for our nation’s defense is the primary responsibility of the federal government – and the President’s budget raises the question of whether defense will be provided sufficient resources.

That said, I don’t mean to imply that there’s not a great deal of work to do to improve efficiency at DoD. The Department’s financial management systems – while improving – are still nowhere near where they need to be to assure American taxpayers their money is being well spent.

You have an acquisition process that is an abject failure at procuring weapons on time and on budget. I’ll note that I was encouraged that the President’s budget calls acquisition reform a priority. But the devil’s in the details. Congress is also a source of the problem through its intervention in DoD’s procurement decisions.

Bottom line is that we need to make absolutely certain we provide the necessary resources for defense of our nation – in particular for the men and women in uniform in Afghanistan and Iraq who are in harm’s way.
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Tags: Defense