Hagel details budget request, calls for more BRAC

| June 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testifies during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee on Capitol Hill, Tuesday. (Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testifies during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee on Capitol Hill, Tuesday. (Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Sequestration and the need for another base closure and realignment commission headlined Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, Tuesday.

Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the president’s request for $526.6 billion for the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2014 budget and an additional $79.4 billion for overseas contingency operations.

“This budget enables the department to support troops still at war in Afghanistan, protect readiness, modernize the military’s aging weapons inventory in keeping with the president’s strategic guidance and sustain the high quality of the all-volunteer force,” Hagel said. “This budget also continues the department’s approach of the last couple of years of targeting growing costs in areas of support, overhead, acquisition and pay and benefits.”

But the specter of sequestration hangs over the budget. DOD is absorbing $37 billion in fiscal 2013 spending cuts, which has necessitated furloughs of 700,000 civilian employees for up to 11 days.

DOD also has cut facilities maintenance, instituted hiring freezes, cut overhead and reduced important, but lower-priority programs, the secretary told the senators, noting that the department has submitted a request to Congress to allow Pentagon officials to shift $9.6 billion in funding.

“We ask this subcommittee’s assistance in providing rapid review and approval of this critical reprogramming request,” Hagel said.

The spending cuts have forced the services to reduce training and maintenance of non-deployed operating forces, Hagel said.

“The Army has stopped rotations at its key combat training centers for all but deploying units. More than a dozen combat-coded Air Force squadrons either already have or will soon stop flying, and the Navy has curtailed deployments,” the secretary said.

The fiscal 2014 budget request is based on $487 billion in spending reductions over 10 years mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. It does not include the effects of sequestration, Hagel told the panel, and if sequestration continues, it will mean a further $500 billion on top of the already agreed-to cuts.

“The president’s (fiscal) 2014 budget replaces sequestration and gives the department the time and flexibility to plan and implement spending reductions wisely and responsibly,” he said.

Under this request, Hagel added, DOD has identified $34 billion in new savings, including weapons program restructuring and terminations that achieve $8.2 billion in savings, slowdowns in military construction and reductions in other programs.

The budget request’s military compensation package “preserves DOD’s world-class pay and benefits while putting our military on a more sustainable path for the future,” Hagel said. “It includes changes to the Tricare program to bring the beneficiary’s cost share closer to the levels envisioned when the program was implemented.”

The budget request calls for one base realignment and closure round in 2015.

“BRAC is an imperfect process, and there are up-front costs, but in the long term, there are significant savings,” the secretary said. He noted that previous BRAC rounds now save $12 billion a year.

The budget request isn’t all about cuts, Hagel noted. The defense strategic guidance issued in 2012 identified areas that must be increased. These include implementing the military rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, maintaining America’s nuclear stockpile, increasing cyber capabilities and sustaining the growth of special operations forces.

“Finally, this budget seeks to preserve a combat-ready force and sustain the high-quality all-volunteer force,” he said.

Hagel assured the senators that the Defense Department will continue to find new ways to operate more affordably, efficiently and effectively.

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