Washington, DC – Today House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement on the President’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget request. The President requested $515.4 billion for the Department of Defense, a 7.5 percent increase over FY08 enacted levels.  The request also includes $70 billion to cover some war costs. 

            “The President’s budget request provides the Department of Defense a 7.5 percent increase over last year’s enacted level. This is a good and necessary increase to ensure the future health of our military.  With our forces still overcommitted in Iraq and with the real war in Afghanistan under-resourced, we must step up to the plate and fully fund our national security needs, both for today and for the future.

            “It is now Congress’ Constitutional obligation to ensure that the resources are allocated properly.  The President’s budget leaves many strategic questions unanswered.  What is the right balance between short-term needs and long-term priorities? Our military has real near-term needs to restore readiness and maintain our commitments to service-members and their families. At the same time, the military services continue to have unmet needs necessary to execute our broader national military strategy. 

            “We must provide our troops what they need for the current conflicts, but we also must ensure we can deter or prevail in the next one. This is Congress’ responsibility and what we will focus on in the coming weeks and months.

            “In addition to avoiding answers to some of these strategic questions, the President has also declined to provide a full funding request for the two wars. The law requires that he submit a funding request, along with full justification materials, at the same time he submits his regular budget. It is unacceptable that he has not done this. We have to know the magnitude of the administration’s plans in order to make the tough decisions about funding and policy for our efforts today, particularly in Afghanistan, and ensuring that we can meet any future needs that arise.

            “We all understand that there is a level of unpredictability with such budget estimates, but it is critical that we attempt to plan for expenses we know are coming.  I have heard that the President and OMB are delaying because they are waiting for the next report from General Petraeus before putting together a full war budget plan.  This explanation is astonishing.  Can you imagine President Truman passing the buck on the budget to General MacArthur during the Korean conflict?

            “With such a large budget request, I will work to ensure that taxpayer resources are being spent as efficiently and effectively as possible. Providing for our nation’s security requires significant resources, and it is our responsibility to see that they are not wasted.

            “The Armed Services Committee begins a rigorous hearing schedule this week with testimony from the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Through a series of budget-related hearings and others focused on key strategic priorities—including Afghanistan, restoring the readiness of the force, ensuring the quality and capability of our military forces, and changing our strategy in Iraq—the committee will continue its rigorous oversight of the Department of Defense. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the leadership of the Department to ensure our troops have what they need for today and for the next fight.”