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House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton Managing the Department of Defense in a Time of Tight Budgets

by: Jeffrey Bradford
July 25, 2010

Category: Syndicated Industry News | RSS 2.0

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton Managing the Department of Defense in a Time of Tight Budgets
Ike Skelton, Chairman
July 22, 2010

Washington, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing to review managing the Department of Defense budget:

“Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to today’s hearing on managing the Department of Defense in a time of tight budgets. Our hearing continues the Committee’s aggressive efforts to protect taxpayers at the same time we protect the troops and ensure our national security.

“This discussion is very timely. First, consider the budget. Much to its credit, the Obama Administration this year delivered a budget with real growth in defense spending. However, the rate of this growth will not support all of the spending practices which have arisen over the last 12 years during which the defense budget more than doubled. Furthermore, the significant federal deficit will make continuing real growth in the defense budget a challenge.

“Second, consider DOD’s management challenge. As illustrated in the ‘Top Secret America’ series of articles in this week’s Washington Post, the growth in contractors and government offices devoted to fighting terrorism since 9/11 is staggering. Most of this growth has occurred at the Department of Defense, though much of it falls in the area of intelligence. But little of note at DOD was eliminated to make way for this new growth. Instead the Department has grown bigger.

“Managing all of this is exactly the job Congress assigned to the Department’s Chief Management Officer, a job currently filled by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn. While Secretary Lynn could not be with us today, much to my regret, we have an excellent panel of witnesses that are here: Ms. Beth McGrath, Deputy Chief Management Officer of the Department of Defense; Mr. Joe Westphal, Under Secretary of the Army; Mr. Robert Work, Under Secretary of the Navy; and the one-time staff director of this committee, Ms. Erin Conaton, Under Secretary of the Air Force.

“The Under Secretaries were designated by Congress to serve as the Chief Management Officers of their respective departments.

“I’ve asked these witnesses to update the Committee on exactly how they are creating the tools, structures, and systems necessary to manage the largest, most complex institution in the world. I’ve asked them to focus on a few issues in particular. Congress has mandated that the Department must at long last get its finances in order and be ready for an independent audit by 2017. Will the Department comply with the law? What progress has been made?

“The Department has asked and received from Congress billions of dollars to modernize its business systems over the last 10 years. What do we have to show today for this investment? Do we now have the kind of management information about our business operations that we need? When will we get there?

“Lastly, the Committee has followed with great interest the efficiency initiative announced by Secretary Gates on May 8 at the Eisenhower Library. We want to know how this initiative will work, and when the Department intends to share its findings with Congress. This committee stands four-square behind efficiency. At the same time, we want to ensure that major budget decisions are well considered.

“We should not attempt to find efficiencies through the kind of mindless across-the-board cuts that President Obama campaigned against. For my own part, I will note loud and clear that I am not for cutting the defense budget at this time. My understanding is that the Secretary’s efficiency initiative is not about cutting the budget, but I look forward to hearing more about how exactly this initiative is designed to work.

“Now, I turn to my colleague from California, Buck McKeon, for his opening remarks.”

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