House Budget Committee Hearing: The Department of Defense and the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget

Chairman Paul Ryan: Opening Remarks, as Prepared for Delivery

Welcome, everybody. I want to start by thanking our distinguished witnesses: Secretary Hagel, General Dempsey, and Secretary Hale. Each of you has served our country—both in the military and in government. And we thank you for your service.

The first duty of government is to keep us safe. And to keep us safe, our strategy should drive our budget. But under this administration, the budget is driving the strategy.

Last year, Secretary Panetta made a budget request he said was the minimum necessary to execute the President’s strategy. He said there was “little room” for cuts if we wanted our troops to fulfill their mission.

This year’s budget request covers the same mission. But over the next ten years, it’s about $120 billion lower than last year’s request. And so far, there’s been no explanation. Have we changed our strategy?

Now, the Defense department isn’t immune to waste. There’s room for improvement. Every agency must use taxpayer dollars wisely—especially the Defense department.

Secretary Hagel has announced the Strategic Choices and Management Review to develop a new strategy for a smaller budget. But a cheaper strategy isn’t necessarily a better one. The Defense Business Board has suggested a number of ways to improve the department. I want to commend their hard work—and encourage you to act on their recommendations. 

That said, national security is a priority. Defense has borne half the burden of deficit reduction. And the President wants to cut even more. This year, the House budget provides the same amount of defense funding the President requested last year. Yet the President opposes our proposal. The President is holding the defense budget hostage for higher taxes and more spending.

These days, every part of government needs to be more efficient. But even as we try to cut the fat, we have to be sure not to cut bone. We must make sure our troops overseas have what they need to complete their mission. We all owe a debt of gratitude to our military and their families, who continue to make sacrifices for our country and the freedoms we cherish.

So I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the challenges we face—and the resources we need to meet them.

With that, I yield to the ranking member, Mr. Van Hollen.