Ryan’s Opening Statement: The President’s Funding Request for Overseas Contingency Operations

Opening Remarks, as Prepared for Delivery

Hi, everybody, and welcome. Today we’re going to review the President’s funding request for the global war on terrorism. There is widespread agreement on this committee that we need to carefully budget for our war-time needs and also that the war-funding designation must not become—in the words of the ranking member—“a slush fund.”  If the Defense Department does not have enough resources to meet our defense needs, then we should increase the base defense budget.  We should not use a temporary authority to pay for our long-term needs. 

We need to get this right.  The decisions we make will affect our security interests around the world, most notably Afghanistan. When we marked up the budget resolution in April, it was just a few days before the first round of the Afghan presidential elections. Back then, the President had not yet submitted a complete request because we weren’t sure how willing the next Afghan government would be to work with us. Since then, there have been two rounds of balloting, and though the election is still unresolved, both candidates have committed to solidifying the security gains in Afghanistan. That’s welcome news—because those gains have come at the cost of over 2,300 American and countless Afghan lives. We owe it to them to finish the job. And if you want to see the consequences of a precipitous withdrawal, look no further than Iraq. We can’t make the same mistakes in Afghanistan.

So as we review this request, two questions in my mind are front and center:

First, what do our men and women in Afghanistan—our troops, our diplomats, our aid specialists—need to get the job done?

And second, is this money going to address those needs? Are these funds for the necessary and temporary costs arising from the war? Or are they simply a way to evade the statutory caps on discretionary spending?

I think our witnesses today will help us answer both questions. In this committee, we’ve made it a point to bring in people from both the civilian side and the military side so we can get a look at the whole picture. We have with us Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom; Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work; Admiral James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and a veteran of the Budget Committee staff who is now the comptroller at the Defense Department, Mike McCord. Thank you all for coming.

With that, I want to recognize the ranking member for his opening remarks.