Thank you, Senator Inhofe, for holding this hearing to consider funding levels for the Department of Defense. I join you in welcoming our witnesses this morning, and I look forward to their testimony.
Before we consider the details of the Defense Department’s budget request, I would like to address some of the broader fiscal challenges we face. Once again, we find ourselves in a situation all too familiar – debating how best to fund the government under the caps required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). There is bipartisan consensus that enforcing budget discipline through the BCA and sequestration is ineffective and shortsighted, and that the BCA caps for FY 2020 will deprive us of the resources needed to sufficiently meet the needs of our nation.
Last year, because we had passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, we knew the permitted spending parameters and therefore were able to markup and pass the Fiscal Year 2019 defense authorization and appropriation bills before September 30th. This gave the military the funding certainty it has lacked for many years. I believe Congress should pass another two-year budget agreement to provide further relief from the caps and provide stability for budget planning. Without such an agreement, we will face great difficulty in crafting a bipartisan authorization bill and will be hard-pressed to provide the Defense Department with another on-time appropriation. Delay will likely lead to recurring continuing resolutions that disrupt planning, and ironically, add cost and inhibit readiness and modernization.
Today we consider the Fiscal Year 2020 budget for the Department of Defense, which seeks $544.5 billion for the base budget and $164.6 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, of which $97.9 billion is designated to pay for base requirements. In addition, there is another $9.2 billion requested for “emergency funding.”
In its base budget request, the Defense Department highlights resources intended to prioritize programs targeted for the high-end fight against near-peer competitors and to “operationalize” the National Defense Strategy, including investments in the space and cyber domains; larger purchases of aircraft, ships, and munitions; and increased research and development dollars for unmanned systems, artificial intelligence, hypersonics, and directed energy.
The base budget request also supports the quality of life of our service members by sustaining family support initiatives and by authorizing a 3.1% pay raise – the largest in 10 years.
However, it is clear that the base budget request will not cover all of the Defense Department’s requirements, so we have been presented with a particularly egregious misuse of the OCO account. I acknowledge that both Congress and other Administrations have included elements of base funding in OCO accounts in the past, but overloading the OCO request with $97.9 billion worth of activities that truly belong in the base budget, just to avoid the threshold of the BCA cap, far exceeds any precedent and cannot be justified. Ironically, last year the President’s acting chief of staff , Mick Mulvaney, called for a “transition away from using OCO as a gimmick to avoid the sequestration caps” in his testimony before Congress. And yet, this Defense budget is a prime example of such a gimmick – and undercuts the integrity of the entire request.
I would also highlight that section 1524 of the FY18 Defense Authorization Act directed the Defense Department to “update the guidelines regarding the budget items that may be covered” by OCO. Neither OMB nor the Defense Department have updated these guidelines. I hope our witnesses can shed some light on when this will be done, and what the details are of this “OCO for Base” request.
I also have serious concerns with the $9.2 billion requested in emergency funding for unspecified military construction projects. $3.6 billion of that total is intended to replenish funds that may be diverted from military construction projects that Congress already authorized and appropriated to build a wall on the southern border. Even if this funding is replenished, these projects may be delayed or even canceled. I would also like to note that Congress has not yet been given the list of projects whose funding may be diverted and I am interested if the witnesses can provide some information on that list.
Moreover, we have learned that an additional $3.6 billion of emergency funding in the Defense Department’s budget will be used to build more of the wall – projects that have not been identified in any way and have zero military utility.
Much of our witnesses’ testimony today describes the $750 billion in investments needed to fulfill the National Defense Strategy. But the National Defense Strategy Commission noted that “comprehensive challenges will require whole-of-government and even whole-of-nation cooperation extending far beyond DOD. Diplomatic statecraft and other non-military tools will be critical – so will adequate support and funding for those elements of American power.” With the State Department and other agencies facing drastic cuts in this budget request, I am interested in knowing if the Defense Department will truly be able to realize the National Defense Strategy.
It is the duty of this Committee to ensure the men and women we send into harm’s way have the resources necessary to complete their mission and return home safely. But I firmly believe that if the Senate decides to modify the budget caps for FY20, we must do so in a manner that continues to provide sufficient funding for both defense and non-defense, as we have every other time we adjusted the caps.
I am proud that this Committee has always worked in a bipartisan fashion during this process, and I look forward to working with all the Committee members to come to a reasonable agreement again this year.