Visclosky Opening Statement at the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing
Washington, DC – Below is the opening statement of Congressman Pete Visclosky from today’s Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.
Thank you very much, Chairwoman Granger. I appreciate you holding this hearing and look forward to working with you to craft the best possible Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Defense Appropriations Act.
Secretary Mattis and General Dunford, we appreciate you being here to testify and I would like to welcome Under Secretary Norquist in his first appearance before this Subcommittee.
In your written testimonies, you dedicate a significant amount of detail describing the upset, unnecessary churn, and inefficiency caused by the lack of predictability and timeliness in appropriations over the last decade. Additionally, you highlight what you see as the future negative consequences to our military and country if funding stability does not reappear soon. While I might have a slightly different outlook on the cause and the potential solution, I could not agree more with the value you attach to predictable and timely appropriations.
I am confident all of my colleagues on this Subcommittee are in agreement. The House Appropriations Committee, under the leadership of Chairmen Rogers, Frelinghuysen, Ranking Member Lowey, and Chairwoman Granger have continually been stymied in efforts to move responsible and timely funding measures through Congress. This is best evidenced by the FY 2017 Appropriations process, which was finally enacted seven months into the fiscal year, but could have easily been finished months sooner if there had been the political will from the leadership of the Majority party.
With regards to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) FY 2018 Budget Request, I am not opposed to providing additional funding to the Department, as I believe we are asking too much of those wearing the uniform today and of their families. That is why I appreciate how this budget prioritizes military personnel and operations and maintenance accounts. However, I am concerned that some of the proposed increases are lacking in justification as well as taking into account future costs over the next five years. Currently, the Department is in the midst of several large strategic reviews, including: the National Defense Strategy, the Nuclear Posture Review, the Afghanistan Strategy Review, and the Counter-ISIS Plan. While I understand the FY 2019 budget will be the first to reflect these reviews, the FY 2018 request does ask for a five and one half percent increase or $33 billion more than the total FY 2017 enacted level. That is a significant amount of money to request prior to all those plans being finalized.
Further, with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) asking for significantly more discretionary funding only for Defense, we are again venturing down a path that will be blocked by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) unless there is legislative fix. While I appreciate comments made by Secretary Mattis in hearings this week about engaging in a strategic dialogue with Congress about the BCA and believe those efforts will have value, I fear that absent a sincere and bipartisan attempt to address the budgetary issues facing the federal government in its entirety – entitlements and taxes included – we will be forced to again muddle along through the next few months until we begin the new regular order – a short term CR, another CR, a third short term CR, and finally an Omnibus measure at topline numbers slightly higher than the BCA caps.
On a positive note, I was excited to read that the Department is on track to enter into a full, agency-wide financial statement audit beginning in FY 2018. While this was required by statute, there was some concern that it would be difficult to meet this goal, so I am very pleased to see the effort is on track.
Madam Chair, thank you again for holding the hearing and I look forward to the witnesses’ testimony.