At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the world is in the most uncertain global security environment he has seen in his 40 years of service.
The military understands it must make fundamental changes to get costs under control, the general said. Still, he added, that cannot take second seat to protecting the nation. Dempsey told the senators he believes President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget request does fund today’s readiness and ensures the resources needed for the future.
“In my judgment, this budget represents a responsible combination of capability, capacity and readiness,” he said. “But we are at the bottom edge of our manageable risk in achieving and fulfilling our national security strategy, as it is currently designed.”
He warned that funding the Defense Department at a lower level than requested and failing to give DoD the flexibility it needs to manage money and put internal reforms in place would mean the country would have to revamp its national security strategy.
Further, Dempsey said, major spending cuts that would return in fiscal 2016 under the sequestration provision of current budget law would trigger a fundamental change that would make the world an even more uncertain place.
Shaping the Future and the Security Environment
Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military has secured the global commons, deterred adversaries, reassured allies and responded to crisis and conflict “primarily by being and maintaining our presence forward or abroad,” Dempsey said. “It’s been our strategy to shape the future and the international security environment by our forward presence and by building relations with regional partners,” he added.
The general noted that about one-third of the force is forward-deployed, one-third has recently returned, and one-third is getting ready to go. While this puts a significant strain on service members and their families, he said, it has served the country — and the world — well.
“Sequestration would fundamentally and significantly change the way we deploy the force, and in so doing [would] affect the way we can shape the security environment,” he said. “We’ll probably be almost 20 percent smaller from where we started when I became the chairman, and our forward presence will be reduced by more than a third. We’ll have less influence, and we’ll be less responsive. Conflict will take longer to resolve and will be more costly in terms of dollars and casualties.”
While the world is less certain, the one certainty is that whatever will happen will happen quickly, the chairman told the senators. Under sequestration, he added. American forces “will be further away and less ready than we need to be.”
“Simply stated,” he said, “sequestration will result in a dramatic change to how we protect our nation and how we promote our national security interest.”
Seeking Certainty in the Budget
Dempsey asked the senators to give service members and their families certainty in the budget. “It seems to me that we owe them and their families clarity and, importantly, predictability on everything from policy to compensation, health care, equipment, training and readiness,” he said.
Congress needs to settle down the uncertainty DoD has experienced over the past four years, Dempsey said, and get the Defense Department out of the one-year-at-a-time funding cycle. That, he said, will help the military recruit and retain the right people.
“That, after all, is our decisive edge,” he said. “And we’ll be able to maintain the military that the American people deserve and, frankly, I think they expect.”