Welcome all to today’s hearing on the strategic choices we face in budgeting for our national security.
I want to thank my colleague Mr. Van Hollen for requesting this hearing. We may differ over the appropriate level of defense spending, but we stand united in our commitment to America’s security and a strategy-based debate when it comes to funding our military.
Indiscriminate cuts in defense spending that are budget-driven and not strategy-driven are dangerous to Americans here at home and to America’s interests in the world. Former Defense Secretary Gates put it well: “that’s math, not strategy.”
This Committee has examined in depth over the last six months – and advanced solutions to address – the fiscal challenges that stifle job creation today, threaten the economic security of American families, and jeopardize our national security commitments as well.
Our fiscal crisis is above all a spending crisis driven by the growth of our major entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – critical programs that help provide health and retirement security for millions of Americans.
In 1970, these programs consumed about 20 percent of the federal budget. These autopilot spending programs now consume 40 percent of the budget.
Over the same period, defense spending has shrunk as a share of the federal budget from about 39 percent to 19 percent – even as we conduct an ambitious global war on terrorism.
Clearly, defense spending is not driving our unsustainable fiscal path. There is, of course, considerable waste and inefficiencies at the Pentagon – which Secretary Gates did a great job of identifying.
The House-passed budget builds upon this effort – devoting $100 billion of savings to higher priority defense programs and $78 billion to deficit reduction.
We must work together to address the real drivers of our debt. We must advance solutions, like those included in the House-passed budget – that strengthen our social safety net, save our critical health and retirement security programs, lift our crushing burden of debt, and spur economic growth and job creation.
America remains the greatest force for human freedom the world has ever seen, lifting millions out of poverty and liberating millions from the shackles of terror and tyranny. Our leadership in the world is threatened by a fiscal crisis within – and the stakes could not be higher.
It is critical for our national security and our economic security that we advance solutions that match the magnitude of the challenges before us.
I thank our witnesses for joining us today, and for bringing considerable expertise to help us frame the strategic choices we face.
David Mosher serves as the assistant director of the Congressional Budget Office for national security.
We’ll also hear from a former colleague of ours here in the House, former Senator Jim Talent who is now a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and a member of the bipartisan panel that provided an independent assessment of the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review. Welcome back Jim.
We also welcome Dr. Gordon Adams, a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center, and a former national security budget official during the Clinton Administration.
A final point worth keeping in mind today – a sentiment that I know Mr. Van Hollen shares: the men and women in uniform are not mere line-items on the federal budget.
Our budget debates must never lose sight of our solemn obligation in Congress to provide our troops fighting overseas with the resources they need to successfully complete their mission, and our commitment to them upon their return.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the military families that make untold sacrifices for our security and our freedoms we hold dear.
Thank you to our witnesses – and to all for joining in today’s discussion, and with that, I yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Van Hollen.