Washington, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement at today’s hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 Defense Budget Request:

“Today is the first of a long series of hearings to examine, in considerable detail, our nation’s defense budget.  In this process, our number one goal is to support those in uniform and their families while being mindful of the economic challenges and the enormous budget pressures our Country faces.          

“The American people deserve our best efforts to ensure that the necessary amount of funding and resources are dedicated to their protection.  Over the past ten years, as we have faced the ongoing threat from al Qaeda and fought two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress has provided those resources — in 2001, our total defense budget in current dollars was $316 Billion, including war costs and supplemental needs.  The FY12 base budget and Overseas Contingency Operations requests amount to $671 Billion, or more than twice as much.  Given the challenges we faced, I think this was the right thing to do.                 

“Today, the American people face an additional and new threat — a challenging economic environment and record deficits.  This year, FY 2011, we are projected to run a deficit of over one and a half trillion dollars.  Clearly, we must continue to provide the resources our men and women in uniform need to carry out the difficult jobs we have asked them to do, especially with nearly 150,000 service members deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.  We also owe the American people our best efforts to find savings and efficiencies in the defense budget. In this time of economic hardship and huge deficits, when we ask the American people for their hard-earned tax dollars, we must be absolutely sure it is needed and spent effectively.  Simply spending more, even in the defense budget, is not the answer — we need to be spending wisely. 

“We owe the same obligation to those who serve in uniform.  In the past, we have funded programs that had little chance of success and which cost us billions before they were terminated — the Future Combat System, the Comanche helicopter, the VH-71.  These were all examples of unneeded, unaffordable programs that we could not make work, and which ultimately siphoned off funds that could have been better used elsewhere.  We have to do better than this for our servicemen and women as well as the taxpayer. 

“Part of spending wisely though, is thinking seriously and realistically about our defense needs and our strategy.   We cannot claim to be serious about defense if proposed cuts are divorced from hard, realistic discussions of needed capabilities and risks and the tradeoffs that are forced by reductions in resources.  Frankly, I am afraid that some of the amendments offered on the floor yesterday and today come close to being completely unconnected to such discussions.  I am confident that this committee will not make the same mistake as we go forward.

“The President’s budget proposal is a serious one, and deserves serious consideration.  Across the Future Year’s Defense Plan, the President’s request provides the needed level of resources to support our national security and our men and women in harm’s way, without simply throwing money at problems.  At the risk of quoting a witness before he’s spoken, I would like to echo something Secretary Gates has said in the past—that “not every defense dollar is sacred and well spent, and that more of nearly everything is simply not sustainable." 

“As we move further into these budget discussions, I do not expect to agree with all of the proposals put before us.   But I do respect and appreciate the hard work and serious effort the Secretary, Admiral Mullen, and those who work for them have put into this budget, and their constant efforts to support those in uniform and their families, without bankrupting our Country.”