Military Leaders Testify On Future Of U.S. Armed Services

CAPITOL HILL: Despair, distrust, and sequestration dominated yesterday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s 2015 budget request. Almost everyone on HASC hates the automatic budget cuts, and the president has proposed a way to bypass them, but comments from committee leaders and backbenchers alike showed how political gridlock makes any solution look far out of reach.

“We really have to live within right now something that I hate, and I’m sure you do and most of the members of the committee do, but it is the law and we’re stuck with it right now,” HASC chairman Buck McKeon told his high-level witnesses, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, and Pentagon comptroller Bob Hale. (Both McKeon and Hale are retiring soon).

Yes, the president’s budget adds $26 billion to defense as part of a budget gimmick called the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.” Beyond 2015 it assumes Congress manages to roll back sequestration and authorize $115 billion above the current law over four years. “I’m not really paying much attention to the $115 and I’m not paying much attention to that [$26 billion],” McKeon said bluntly,  because that’s in the realm of, ‘that would be wonderful but it’s not going to happen.'”

In fact, the California congressman said, the administration’s budget gimmicks mask the severity of the problem and make it harder to mobilize the American people to solve it. For example, referring to the media outcry that the regular active-duty Army was shrinking to pre-World War II levels, McKeon said, “I saw stories that seemed to get peoples’ attention [saying] the Army going down to 440,000. I want them to know …. it really goes down to 420.”

Actually, the committee’s top Democrat, Washington’s Adam Smith said, the administration’s numbers do add up — “it wasn’t  just magical thinking, they did actually put in offsets” — and it’s the Republicans who are muddying the waters for the public.

“One of the things that harms the ability of the American people to understand this,” Smith said, “is the message…from the Republican party has been ‘Obama’s cutting defense’. So the American people get the impression here that there’s no problem here, that if Obama simply chose not to cut defense, everything would be fine. And that’s simply false. The administration is budgeting to the number we all gave him.

“We continually hear Republicans saying the Obama administration is bound and determined to cut defense and that’s all this is about,” Smith said. “As long as you deliver this message, we got no hope in getting out of this.”

Smith opposes the sequestration cuts and would prefer a grand bargain that cuts entitlement spending and increased tax revenues instead. Failing that — and Congress has consistently failed to do it — ” I would turn off sequestration tomorrow without an offset…so we stop kicking the hell out of our defense budget,” Smith said. “That’s not going to happen.”

Just how deep the paralyzing distrust goes was laid bare towards very end of the hearing, when junior Republican Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma said that Obama was “holding that $26 billion [for defense] hostage” by tying it to $30 billion of domestic spending that are also part of the OSGI fund.

“The challenge a lot of us have on this committee is, we want to be there, we want to help, but it’s difficult when the president puts us in a position where, OK, we will do that [i.e. increase defense spending] if, if you agree to an additional $30 billion dollars in domestic social spending,” Bridenstine said. “It’s almost like he put in a poison pill intentionally so that the $26 billion would never get voted on.”

So there’s no sign from either side of a solution any time soon. That will cost us in readiness, the Joint Chiefs chairman warned, taking the risk of interrupting chairman McKeon to make the point.

“What I think would be unacceptable: If we continue to kick this can down the road believing somehow that it’ll be solved by our successors,” Gen. Dempsey said, “when in fact because we’re kicking it down the road and not making the tough decisions collaboratively, we’re eating away at the nation’s readiness for conflict.”


  • James Hedman

    This news about Congressional gridlock is all to the good!

  • Don Bacon

    Federal deficits have decreased in the first four months of this fiscal year compared to last year, with daily deficits dropping from about $2.4B to $1.5B in the period..

    Oct -Jan four months
    FY — income — outlay — deficit $M
    FY2013 — 887,779 — 1,177,193 — 289,415
    FY2014 — 960,498 — 1,144,618 — 184,019

    Outlays have dropped a bit (3%), and federal income has increased more (8%) in the period.

    • James Hedman

      I doubt this will last once the shortfalls in the funding of Obamacare become evident. Long-term we need a combined total of 35% not 11% to get back on an even keel. Unnecessary federal outlays on energy, farm subsidies, education, the “homeland” police state, and military expenditures are obvious areas of harmless cuts that would immediately benefit the American people.

      Re-arming Japan and Germany including encouraging them to develop their own nuclear arsenals will go a long way to helping us reduce our military deficit and wean us off our NATO commitments and help us to renegotiate The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation And Security Between The United States And Japan which enables the Japs to spend less than 1% of their annual GNP on defense.

      The sooner we withdraw troops from Korea, Japan, and the Philippines (where we now seem to be going in the opposite direction after successfully withdrawing) the better.

    • paulrevere01

      good link Don, tks for the succinct pdf. And then I went to the site and found the usual maze and bird’s nest of gov’t speak…gonna have to navigate around and see how you found that very straight forward (EXTREMELY UNUSUAL) list of simple math combined with dates…good stuff…hope there’s more!

  • Don Bacon

    It’s all smoke and little substance, together with dumb schoolboy statements like “kick this can down the road.” No wonder approval of Congress ranges from 9% to 13%, depending upon the poll. Of course that was Dempsey that said that but he’s sunk to the same asinine level.

    Active Army strength maxed at 570 (thousand) and should drop to 520 by the end of the year. These numbers are still way above Army strength of 482 in 2007 so what are they grousing about.

    The goal of 440-450 is 7% less than that, but so what. The US was involved in two ground wars at the time, and the policy isn’t to do that dumb thing any more. The United States isn’t threatened by any military force.

    There are other places to cut back. The Us military has 28,000 in South Korea, but with 650,000 troops the well-equipped South Koreans are fully capable of defending themselves. etc.

    When are they going to debate something of importance?

    • gray_eagle

      The US isn’t threatened by any military force? Where are you getting your information from? Thinning out the ranks of the terrorists was a smart thing to do…….now they know we will not sit back and let them run ripshod over us with killings and bombings. Iran beckons our call due to nuclear adventurism. Russia is on the move again, with a slaughter going on in the Ukrain that has the UN more upset than we are. North Korea is adventuresome and dangerous, especially with missiles being shot at and over Japan (in whom we are agreed to defend) – and nuclear development. We fought a war to keep two communist powers out of South Korea and it remains in our national interest to keep communism out of that economic power. American military in South Korea is an excellent tripping block for any outside attack. Not only would they invite battle with South Korea, but also with the United States. Japan is the foundation of the Pacific. After WWII, we supported their new democratic ways and helped them build their nation back (remember the Marshall Plan?). We have forces there that cause China, Russia and North Korea to take a step back concerning any adventurism there. We are bound by agreement to protect Japan as well. Protecting Japan, Korea and our other allies in the Pacific IS in our national interest. China is rattling their sabre now and want to rule a large portion of the Pacific. We must counter their threat with our own forces……which is why approximately 60% or our subs and other forces are being relocated to the Pacific area. I’ll just stop here…..there are other areas of interest that could explode into war at any time.

  • Don Bacon

    $26B is five percent of the bloated DOD budget which is 57% of the federal discretionary budget and nearly 40% of all military spending on the planet. They were supposed to cut $54B but it didn’t happen. Cut avoidance is an art in the Pentagon.

    War funding isn’t subject to caps or cuts or any restrictions at all. Congress added a $10.8 billion slush fund to the war budget. Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, found that the Pentagon was stashing an estimated extra $20 billion worth of non-war funding in the “operation and maintenance” accounts of its proposed 2014 war budget.

    That leaves $3.4 billion – a cut of less than 1% from Pentagon funding this year. It’s hard to imagine that anyone in the sprawling bureaucracy of the Defense Department will even notice. The DOD bureaucracy includes not only a million-man army (active, reserve and Guard), over 755,000 civilians and over 900 flag officers.

    Don’t let the door hit ya, Buck, a man “stuck with the law.”

    • gray_eagle

      These military and civilian numbers are right where they need to be. The United States is a super-power. We need influence all over the world to accomplish our nation’s and the entire free world’s agenda. America is and should remain proactive in an attempt to eliminate another world war from breaking out. In the outset of WWI and WWII, we were isolationist and unprepaired. We changed our policy after that… stay involved to prohibit another world war. All military spending on the planet is a statistic that has no correlation to anything. Count up all the conflicts going on RIGHT NOW, including a really adventuristic Russia and China, and we could get pulled into action very quickly. The rest of the world knows Obama is weak, we are in debt up to our ears mostly because of his leadership and weak, poorly thought out agenda at home.

  • HMan570

    All these cuts to the Pentagon I just don’t understand. It seems that where we need the money it is always taken away. Not saying that a lot of money is wasted by the Pentagon, but in times such as we have I would not weaken our Milatairy. We need cuts and long term cuts, it would best serve our interest if we cut from the very politicians that are taking us broke. with their health insurence for life, pensions that start when they leave office even if they serve one term, they can cut their staffs, cut out the free coooee and donuts we pay for that oo, get rid of the 20 some jets they we pay for that takes them everywhere they want to go, take commerical like the rest of us do, stop the free college that they get for their kids and the list of free bees they get is even longer. If you add up just what I have mentioned we the taxpayers could save billions. Our potliticians think they are above the law and can do what ever they want as they control the purse strings and make the laws to back up their greed. We the People should stand us and take back our government, its way to late but we can do and put our country back on the right track..

    • jgelt

      It appears that you are saying that the Pentagon doesn’t waste a lot of money. Certain groups in this country make a point out of pumping up military efficiency, So I understand how people can come to that conclusion. The truth of that matter is that the military budget is rife with fraud and waste. Even if you accept that the current missions are valid, and I don’t, 25-50 billion in savings could be easily extracted. The problem is, there is no independent disinterested party in the process. Some of the insiders push poor systems and practices, justifying themsleves, that this just the way we do things and it will all work out in the end. Then there are the looters. These are the folks who contribute nothing to defense and are there to work the system to line their pockets.

      • HMan570

        No I didn’t say that as I did say that “A lot of money is wasted by the Pentagon” I am saying that the greed in this country has been running wild for a very long time. It seems to be our politicians are so currupt that they show it and don’t care. I am pittying the money against the waste we have at evey level of government. Do you see any new names that get the bids from government contracts? Its always the same people and the money is shared by our greedy politicians that is how they get rich fast when taking office. The same people at the Pentagon wast billions a year, its a use it or lose it so the money keeps flowing in. Think of all the money Congress waste daily on things that we the people have to provide for oursleves. Lunch is provided Free, Dinner Free, coffee and donuts free, saff is free both in Washington and home state. These are just a few of the things that can be cut reather then social programs, SS, Medicar and so on. People struggle to provide for their families and can’t make ends meet do to the laws that gave our jobs away, taxes lost that have to be made up by the people. Billions of dollars are wasted on people overseas and their needs rather then Americans. Check you gas bills both at home and at the pump. Oil companies can’t make gas or home oil unless they get billions of dollars from the taxpayers and high gas prices? So when you think of all the things you are concerned over, you should look yourself as all this is public record. Most is not understandable because it is in legalize. We do need change but the change we got is more taxes, lower pays, and leadership that should be disturbing for all Americans.

        • paulrevere01

          Though I fully concur with your take, I must comment that all your vitriol at politicians just has to address that nano-graphite lubricated revolving door being entered and exited and entered and exited by military brass, Congressional piggies and their staff and industry execs who also cloak themselves in carving off stealthy sums…close to 7 trillion dollars melting away into the ethers, untraced and untraceable over 20 years is no small fiasco.

  • rene591

    this country is officially non interventionist. no support nada none for any additional resources for the military. if fact we are wondering why you need 500 billion