Statement of Chairman Leahy at the hearing to review of the FY22 Department of Defense Budget Request

Today, we welcome testimony from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley in support of the President’s budget request for the Department of Defense. The budget request totals $715 billion for the Department of Defense, which is a 1.6 percent increase over fiscal year 2021.  The budget includes important investments to deter our adversaries; support for our military and civilian personnel and their families; funds to combat the ongoing pandemic and prepare for future public health challenges; and important investments to mitigate the national security impact of climate change.

Taken together, this budget proposal reflects the approach that we all understand to be true: that the United States defense budget is just one component of the overall strength of our nation. While we may divide domestic and defense spending on paper, the reality is the investments we make in our defense posture and strategy pay immense dividends domestically. It is also true that without domestic investments in education, health care, research, economic development, and science, we cannot man, train, and equip a successful defense.

I look forward to hearing in greater detail today how this administration’s request and the strategy it supports restores the United States’ commitment to our allies and to enhancing our network of partnerships. For all the discussion about deterring China and Russia, it’s important to remember that the United States has always been most successful and best protected when it works with many other nations. That is what makes the United States a global leader.

Some have criticized President Biden’s proposed increase for the Department of Defense, characterizing it as too little.  Some even call it a cut.  This is simply not true.  President Biden does not propose to cut defense spending.  He proposes a 1.6 percent increase.  On top of this increase, the Department of Defense will have access to $12 billion in additional dollars to dedicate to other priorities as a result of leaving Afghanistan.  I believe this is a fair proposal.  

But in order to be able to begin our work drafting bills, including for the Defense Department, this Committee needs agreed upon toplines. Congress should begin bipartisan and bicameral discussions with the White House to establish agreed upon toplines soon, so we can begin our work in short order.  

For too long, Congress has defined spending in terms of defense, and non-defense.  It is time we start looking at the totality of our investments in the American people.  That is what the Appropriations Committee is charged to do: allocate precious federal dollars to the greatest needs of today.  Time is wasting.  We need to get to work.

It is essential that the White House engage in these four corner negotiations to establish toplines between defense and non-defense funding, so that we can avoid a continuing resolution in the fall.  Running the government on a string of continuing resolutions is a disservice to the military, our dedicated public servants, and the American people.

I will now turn to Vice Chairman Shelby for his opening statement, and then to Senator Tester, the new Chairman of the Defense Subcommittee. 

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