Washington , DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement today regarding the President’s budget requests. The President submitted three defense budgets: a $481.4 billion FY08 base budget request for the Department of Defense; a $141.7 billion FY08 war budget request; and a $93.4 billion FY07 supplemental request to cover this year’s remaining war costs. Taken together, these three requests total $716.5 billion.
“The sums involved in the defense budget requests are staggering. We cannot provide an adequate national defense on the cheap, but neither can we afford to simply ratify the President’s request without performing the due diligence and oversight our Constitution requires.
“Our military has long needed an increase in funding to ensure it can defend this nation and prevail in any future conflict. Congress must look very carefully at how much of this increase truly goes to enhancing our readiness and future defense capabilities and how much is being spent to further the fight in Iraq. The House Armed Services Committee is ready to do its part to ensure that the taxpayer dollars dedicated to the defense budget are spent wisely and enable us to meet our strategic priorities.
“I am pleased that for the first time and as required by last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the President submitted a war budget for the coming fiscal year. This will help Congress and the American people gain a more realistic picture of the budget impact of the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and the broader war on terrorism. The committee will take a careful look at the assumptions built into this budget about force levels and other priorities as part of our overall effort.
“It is critical for our country to spend what is necessary to properly train and equip our men and women in uniform, to care for our service members and their families, and to prepare our military to fight today’s battles while deterring and defending against future threats. Success will be measured in our ability to lay the groundwork for a safe and strong America for future generations,” said Skelton.
FY07 Supplemental Request
The FY07 supplemental request totals $93.4 billion. When combined with the $70 billion contained in the previous FY07 bridge fund, the total war funding in FY07 is $163.4 billion, an increase of $48.9 billion from FY06.
The FY07 supplemental request includes $49.3 billion for traditional supplemental budget categories such as military personnel and operation and maintenance, but it also includes significant funding in investment accounts such as $23.1 billion in procurement funding and $1.9 billion for military construction.
“If the FY07 supplemental request is fully funded, total war funding in FY07 will be $163.4 billion. This is an enormous sum. Although the Appropriations Committee has primary jurisdiction, the Armed Services Committee will closely scrutinize this request to ensure that the spending is justified and that all items requested truly meet the standard of ‘emergency’ spending,” said Skelton.
War Budget Request
The FY08 war budget request totals $141.7 billion, including $88.5 billion for personnel and operation and maintenance, $32.9 billion for procurement, and an additional $4.7 billion for Iraq and Afghan security forces.
“I am pleased that for the first time and as required by last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the President submitted a war budget for the coming fiscal year. This will help Congress and the American people gain a more realistic picture of the budget impact of the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and the broader war on terrorism,” said Skelton.
Iraq and Afghan Security Forces
Iraq and Afghan security forces would receive an additional $14.4 billion ($9.7 billion in the FY07 supplemental and $4.7 billion in the FY08 war request). This comes on top of more than $17.5 billion already approved by Congress to date.
“If the Iraq and Afghan security forces develop the skills and obtain the equipment they need to protect public safety, Iraq and Afghanistan will be much closer to providing the security and stability these countries need to thrive as viable governments. The Iraqis in particular must take greater responsibility for their own security. The committee will conduct close oversight of the requests to further train and equip these forces to ensure that they are appropriate and that the substantial investments made to date are bearing fruit,” said Skelton.
The FY08 base budget request for active component end strength provides for an increase of 7,000 for the Army and 5,000 for the Marine Corps above the levels requested in FY07. This is the first step towards a phased-in permanent increase in Army end strength of 65,000 and a permanent increase of Marine Corps end strength of 27,000. These increases will be fully implemented by 2012.
“Current security commitments have placed an enormous strain on our service members and their families. As one who has long called for increasing the size of our Armed Forces, I welcome the President’s proposal to permanently increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps,” said Skelton.
The budget includes a pay raise of 3 percent, equal to the increase in the Employment Cost Index (ECI). Because this pay raise will not exceed the ECI, the gap between military and private sector pay increases during FY08 will remain 4 percent. Congress has mandated an increase of 0.5 percent more than ECI in each of the last 8 years.
“Military recruiting and retention depends upon our ability to compete with the private sector in terms of pay and benefits. The House Armed Services Committee will examine the President’s military pay raise proposal to make sure it is adequate to the needs of our service members and their families,” said Skelton.
The budget includes or assumes the approval of several changes in military health care that have been denied in previous years, including an increase in TRICARE fees, “efficiencies” in Military Treatment Facilities, and federal pricing for pharmaceuticals. If these proposals are not successful in FY08, the budget for military health care will be underfunded by between $1.8 billion and $2.3 billion.
“Health care is one of the most important benefits our nation provides to our service members and their families. I believe Congress will be extremely reluctant to increase fees and make other changes that would erode health care benefits. We will look carefully at the assumptions in the health care request to ensure this budget adequately funds the health care needs of our troops,” said Skelton.
The FY08 budget provides an increase of about $15.5 billion to the operations and maintenance account. A portion of this increase is expected to go toward improving readiness. Continuous combat operations have placed significant stress on the readiness of the Army and Marine Corps ground forces. This stress has been most apparent in the declining readiness posture of ground units not deployed to the combat theater. Units outside of Iraq and Afghanistan are operating without complete sets of equipment or adequate resources to train or execute their full spectrum combat missions.
“It’s no secret that the readiness of our military has been strained by ongoing operations in Iraq. While the President’s budget acknowledges this problem, there is much more that must be done to fully restore our armed forces, and ensure that they will be ready to engage in future conflicts ,” Skelton said.
The FY07 supplemental request and the FY08 war budget request continue the work begun in the FY07 Defense Bill to provide substantial resources for the reset of Army and Marine Corps equipment. The FY07 supplemental requests an additional $13.9 billion to reconstitute equipment, and the FY08 war request includes $37.6 billion, an amount equal to the amount requested in FY07.
However, the Administration has also included items such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the category of replacement of combat losses. This muddies the otherwise straightforward nature of reset requirements.
“U.S. military equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan is being used to the breaking point, which has a direct impact on our overall military readiness. We must ensure that the Services have the funding they need to repair and replace their equipment so that our forces have what they need for use in the field and for training. Our troops’ equipment must be adequate for the current operations and for whatever missions they are called upon to perform next,” said Skelton.
The shipbuilding procurement account includes $13.66 billion for 8 new construction ships in 2008 including 1 CVN carrier, 1 VA-class submarine, 1 LPD amphibious ship, 1 T-AKE supply ship, 3 Littoral Combat Ships, and 1 Joint High Speed Vessel to be purchased by the Army.
“Investments in Navy shipbuilding are essential if the U.S. wants to preserve our status as a naval power. The proposal to fund the construction of 8 new ships in 2008 is a step in the right direction, but more will need to be done over time to ensure our Navy is the right size to meet our global commitments,” said Skelton.
The FY08 budget request includes $607.2 million for the continued procurement of Up-Armor Humvees for the Army and Marine Corps, a decrease from last year’s budget request of $655 million. The requested funds will be used to address current and future requirements for ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army modernization, Marine Corps Distributed Operations, and Army and Marine Corps equipment reset needs.
“It has taken far too long to provide the protective equipment our forces need to protect themselves in the field. I am pleased that the budget includes funding to provide more Up-Armored Humvees for the Army and the Marines Corps, but we must also make sure that our manufacturers and depots work at capacity to provide this vital equipment,” said Skelton.
The FY08 budget request includes $9.78 billion for ballistic missile defenses, a reduction of $560 million from FY07. Part of these funds would provide for the production and fielding of additional ground- and sea-based interceptors, including the Army’s Patriot missile defense system.
“After spending tens of billions to date, the Department of Defense must start demonstrating ballistic missile defense capabilities that work. The House Armed Services Committee will continue its close oversight of the funds dedicated to missile defense programs to ensure that they are spent at appropriate levels and in the right areas to deliver protection to our deployed forces and to American citizens,” said Skelton.
The FY08 budget request for military construction, not including family housing, is $18.2 billion, an increase of almost $9 billion over the FY07 enacted level. The increase is due to several factors including: an increase of nearly $5.7 billion for implementation of the 2005 BRAC round, an increase of approximately $3.3 billion for military construction to restation units from overseas as part of the Integrated Global Presence and Basing Strategy, and the Army’s modularity initiative.
“Construction of facilities our forces need to fulfill their missions is a high priority. With so many demands on our existing infrastructure, including the restationing of units from overseas and the implementation of the 2005 BRAC round, we must ensure the Services get the construction funding they need to reasonably plan for the strategic movement of forces and the provision of high-quality facilities for troops and their families,” said Skelton.