WASHINGTON: The fiscal 2011 defense budget request continues and builds on the reforms of the fiscal 2010 budget, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense June 16.
The proposed base budget request is $549 billion, a 3.4 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
The budget request allows real growth of 1.8 percent, reflecting the administration’s commitment to modest, steady and sustainable real growth in defense spending, Secretary Gates said.
The secretary testified alongside Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The request includes ending the Navy’s EPX intelligence aircraft, the third-generation infrared surveillance program, the next generation CGX cruiser, the net-enabled and controlled command and control program, and the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources system. The request completes the C-17 airlifter program and closes the production line.
The request also ends the second engine for the F-35 joint strike fighter, “as whatever benefits might accrue are more than offset by excess costs, complexity and associated risks,” Secretary Gates said.
The secretary spelled out his opposition to the last two of those programs in particular.
“I will continue to strongly recommend that the president veto any legislation that sustains the continuation of the C-17 or the F-35 extra engine,” Secretary Gates said. “And given some recent commentary, let me be explicit. It would be a very serious mistake to believe the president would accept these unneeded programs simply because the authorization or appropriations legislation includes other provisions important to him and to this administration.”
Secretary Gates said the department must maintain budget growth during the next few years, as the nation fights two wars.
That said, Secretary Gates added, he understands this is a fiscally constrained environment, and wants the department to trim overhead costs and rethink acquisition.
“Last month I called on the Pentagon to take a hard, unsparing look at how the department is staffed, organized and operated,” he said. “My goal is to significantly reduce our overhead costs in order to free up the resources needed to sustain our force structure, to modernize and to create future combat capabilities while living within the current top line.”
Secretary Gates said Defense Department leaders are looking to find more than $100 billion in overhead savings over the next five fiscal years, starting in fiscal 2012.
“No organization within the department, including my own office, will be excluded from these efforts,” Secretary Gates said. “All of the savings will be applied to fund personnel and units, force structure and investment in future capabilities.”
Secretary Gates stressed that the budget reflects the department’s major priorities.
The first of these is strengthening the nation’s commitment to care for the all-volunteer force, America’s greatest strategic asset, the secretary said. The second priority seeks to rebalance U.S. defense posture by emphasizing both the capabilities needed to prevail in irregular conflicts and the capabilities that will likely be needed in the future.
The third priority is to continue to reform the acquisition process, he said.
The secretary also addressed the pending request for $159 billion in fiscal 2011 to support overseas contingency operations, primarily in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also asked Congress to speed approval of $33 billion needed in fiscal 2010 to fund President Barack Obama’s new approach in Afghanistan.
“The commitments made and programs funded in the (overseas contingency operations) and supplemental requests demonstrate this administration’s determination to support our troops and commanders at the front so they can accomplish their critical missions and return home safely,” Secretary Gates said.
“I am becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of progress on the supplemental, and strongly urge Congress to complete its work on the request as quickly as possible,” the secretary said. “If the supplemental is not enacted by the July 4 congressional recess, we will have to begin planning to curtail defense operations. Such planning is disruptive and can be costly, especially in time of war, and I ask your help in avoiding this action.”