WASHINGTON--Today, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at the hearing entitled, "The Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense." For testimony and other information and to watch the hearing click here.
"The Committee meets to receive the testimony of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the Administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget request.
We welcome Secretary Mattis for his first hearing before our Committee, and we welcome Chairman Dunford back.
The question today, as it is each year for this hearing, is how well the Administration’s proposal meets the security needs of our nation – factoring in both the external threats and the current state of our military.
This Committee has repeatedly heard testimony over the past two years that our country faces more serious, complex security challenges now than we have ever faced before. And the hearings and briefings we have held on the current state of our military have been disturbing.
The Administration’s budget request of $603 billion for base requirements is 6% above the FY 2017 enacted levels and 3% above the last Obama Administration budget proposal. It is also $37 billion below what this Committee assessed last fall was needed and about $58 billion below the FY ’12 Gates budget, which was validated by the bipartisan National Defense Panel.
But, of course, the issue is not numbers. The issue is what those numbers provide for the men and women who serve and what security the budget provides to the nation. It is about whether we can defend the U.S. and our allies against North Korean missiles, for example. It is about whether we have the number of ships and planes and other military capability to deter aggression and maintain peace. It is about doing right by our most valuable asset – our people. The men and women who serve deserve the best weapons and equipment our country can provide, and today they are not getting it.
It is always tempting to divert this discussion into the broader budget debate related to taxes and other spending programs. Those issues are not within the jurisdiction of this Committee or of these witnesses. But regardless of our views on those issues, we cannot wait until we solve our budget problems to adequately fund our military. We cannot wait until we perfect our acquisition system to have planes that fly and ships that sail. The world is not stopping and waiting on us to get our act together. It moves on, and it is moving in a dangerous direction.
2018 is a key decision point. We have spent six years just getting by, asking more and more of those who serve, and putting off the choices that have to be made. We cannot keep piling missions on our service members without ensuring they have all they need to succeed.
Does this Administration’s budget proposal accomplish that? That is the question before us."