Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I would like to join you in thanking our witnesses here today, and would like to thank you for holding this hearing.

I believe the President should be congratulated for proposing a responsible defense budget.  The Administration has acknowledged that we cannot achieve our current defense strategy with sequestration funding levels, and now it is up to Congress to make its own determination.  However, I am extremely disturbed by press reports that suggest the House Budget Committee under Republican leadership may set the defense spending caps in line with the BCA’s post-sequester spending caps.  These levels would be substantially below the President’s budget request and would, in my view, be fundamentally irresponsible in this time of crisis and conflict.

Some of the chiefs of service here have, in discussions with members and staff, laid out the kind of hard choices they would have to make if we provided them with funding levels below those of the President’s budget request.  I think many of my colleagues found those discussions illuminating and often disturbing.  It is my hope that we can have that conversation again in public, along with an explanation of how harmful sequestration has been in the past, and what the effects would be moving forward.  In turn, I hope we can use that conversation to build support among members to support bipartisan, common sense solutions to our current budget dilemma.  We should no longer allow the threat of sequestration to hang over the Department of Defense, and the entire Federal government. It is long past time for us to work seriously on our budget problems.  We in Congress imposed the Budget Control Act and all its damage on the Department, and it is only a lack of Congressional leadership that keeps the BCA in place.

At this point, I will once again reiterate my call for making recommended reforms within the Department of Defense that will free up funding for the future.  It is irresponsible of us to simultaneously deny the Administration’s request for additional funds for the Department of Defense and reject the Department’s pleas for additional flexibility to eliminate excess bases, retire old platforms, and make changes to the pay and benefits structure.  Chairman Thornberry is admirably working on acquisition reform, which will hopefully free up some resources, but much more can be done.  We should probably do these things anyway, in the interests of ensuring that America’s tax dollars are well spent, but if we are not going to remove the threat of sequestration, the case is even more compelling.

Again, I would like to thank our witnesses for joining us today.  And I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your continued focus on this important issue.

I yield back my time.