06.07.17

Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy Statement on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing: “A Review of the FY18 Funding Request for the Army”

Thank you, Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Durbin, for holding this hearing.  Welcome General Milley, and Acting Secretary Speer.

The mission of our Army today is unique.  Ongoing conflicts around the world require our military to be ready, at any moment, to defend against threats to our national security, including the extremism and violence that undermine our core values.  While today we will surely discuss the shortfalls the Army is facing, I think it is important to note the Army’s successes in recent years in making better use of funding by moving toward efficient administration, better leveraging of the Guard and Reserve, and rethinking acquisition programs and strategies. These are important achievements, but still, today, only one third of Army combat units are ready to be deployed into battle.  We must do better for our men and women in uniform.  I am committed to ensuring that the Defense Department’s budget enables it to respond to the mission it is asked to fulfill.

We also need to ensure that America has an economy and citizenry strong enough to fill the ranks and financially support our Army.  While our focus here today is the Army’s budget proposal, we should not ignore the President’s drastic and draconian cuts to domestic programs that strengthen our economy and empower our people.  We cannot simply ratchet up defense spending, while undercutting education, law enforcement, housing assistance, victims’ assistance, Medicaid, workforce training, and on and on.

When Secretary Mattis was here in March, I asked him about the connection between a strong economy and a strong military.  Here is what he said:

“The engine for national security has always been our economy. A strong economy equates to a strong military. And history is pretty compelling, nations that didn’t keep their fiscal house in order, their economies strong, lost their military power.”

General, you are well known to this Committee as a student of history, and Acting Secretary Speer, you have significant experience with finance and economics.  I know that you are both here today to testify about the Army’s budget and the Army’s challenges.  I hope you will also be mindful of the country’s national priorities outside the defense landscape.  If we do not invest in Americans here at home, then the Army will not have the men and women to serve.

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