Panetta, Dempsey: DOD
Budget Request Reflects Tough Choices
May 11, 2012
As Congress marks up
the military budget, the nation’s defense leaders said today they stand
ready to work with lawmakers to maintain the balance they built into
their budget proposal.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke strongly on defense budget
issues during a Pentagon press conference.
“We do not have to choose between national security and fiscal security,
but that does not mean that we do not have to make tough choices,” the
secretary said. “We do. And defense should not be exempt from doing its
share to reduce the deficit.”
The House Armed Services Committee this week has debated aspects of the
proposed defense budget, including base realignment and closure and
possible missile defense sites.
Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, Panetta noted, which
requires a reduction of defense spending of $487 billion over the next
To meet those cuts, department senior leaders worked with President
Barack Obama to craft a strategy outlining defense priorities, the
secretary said. They then built a spending plan that both supports that
strategy and meets the Budget control Act’s spending caps, he added.
“My concern is that if Congress now tries to reverse many of the tough
decisions that we reached by adding several billion dollars to the
president's budget request, then they risk not only potential gridlock …
[but] they could force the kind of trade-offs that could jeopardize our
national defense,” Panetta said.
The secretary described some of those trade-offs. If DOD leaders can’t
retire aging ships and aircraft, he said, they will have to realize
savings in areas such as modernization investment.
If the department can’t reduce force structure after 2014, “Congress
would be forcing us to reduce readiness. We would have to cut training
[and] we'd have to cut equipment,” Panetta added.
And if Congress limits the Pentagon’s ability to put military health
care costs on what the secretary called a sustainable track, lawmakers
would limit defense options to invest in “new technologies that we
believe are critical to the force we need for the future,” he said.
Dempsey said he appreciates the difficulties lawmakers must contend with
in managing military spending as U.S. military involvement in
Afghanistan continues, and complex security challenges lie ahead.
chairman said he and Panetta, along with the service chiefs and
combatant commanders, faced the same issues when they prepared their
DOD’s spending plan “is a responsible investment in our nation’s
security,” Dempsey said.
The challenge in finalizing defense funding is to “make sure our armed
forces have what they need -- and no more than we need -- to keep
America immune from coercion,” the chairman said.
DOD’s budget request reflects a carefully devised set of choices to
sustain the joint force, Dempsey said.
Those choices, he added, reflect “the right mix among force structure,
modernization, readiness, pay and benefits. Different choices will
produce a different balance.”