Washington D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following opening statement at today’s hearing on “The Future of National Defense and the U.S. Military Ten Years after 9/11”:
“I would like to thank the witnesses for appearing here today. General Myers, General Pace, and Admiral Giambastiani all served for many years on behalf of our country, and we owe you our thanks for your service. I hope that today we can prevail on you again to provide us with your advice.
“I will not take too much time to belabor the point here, but our nation is faced with a long term, systemic budget dilemma. Simply put, revenues and expenditures are substantially misaligned. We don’t collect enough revenue to cover our expenditures. Going forward, it is my belief that we are going to have to fix this problem from both ends—spending will have to come down, and we’re going to have to fix the revenue problem.
“It is the decrease in spending, however, that most concerns us here today. Defense spending makes up about 20% of all federal spending and about half of all non-entitlement. Since 9/11, defense spending has risen, in real terms, somewhere over 40% without counting the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it’s not clear that we have actually gotten that much value from our spending. Nonetheless, like many, if not most, of our members here, I share the view that large, immediate cuts to the defense budget would have substantially negative impacts to the ability of the U.S. military to carry out those missions we assign them, and this is in fact why I voted against the recent agreement to raise the debt ceiling. But, and I would like to be clear, I believe that we can rationally evaluate our national security strategy, our defense expenditures, and the current set of missions we ask the military to undertake and come up with a strategy that requires less funding. We can, I believe, spend smarter and not just more.
“In fact, the Administration has announced that just such a comprehensive overview is underway, and I congratulate them for undertaking it. Faced with the end of the war in Iraq, the beginning of the transition period in Afghanistan, the death of bin Laden, and the prospect of declining budgets, undertaking a strategic review is a rational and responsible choice. We on this committee like to say that strategy should not be driven by arbitrary budget numbers, but by the same token not considering the level of available resources when developing a strategy is irresponsible and leads inevitably to asking our military to undertake jobs for which we do not resources them.
“So my hope for this hearing is that our witnesses here today will help us think through the strategy changes about which we should think. Rather than just focus on the potential damage to national defense that could be caused by large and arbitrary cuts or coming up with imaginary numbers and asking the witnesses how bad they would be, we should ask the witnesses, how can we put together a sustainable national defense strategy? If you were asked, what would you tell those undertaking the comprehensive review? I don’t believe anyone here thinks defense funding will stay level or increase in real terms in the future, so what missions should we think about cancelling? What can we do smarter? And what principles would you use to prioritize the interests in the world that we must defend or the threats we must defend against?
“Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. And thank you Generals Myers and Pace and Admiral Giambastiani for appearing here today. I yield back.”