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Armed Services Committee holds hearings on Air Force budget request

Posted: February 23, 2010 2:25 p.m.
Updated: February 23, 2010 7:00 p.m.
 
Washington, D.C. -- The House Armed Services Committee today received testimony from Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz on the Administration's Fiscal Year 2011 budget request for the Department of the Air Force.

Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, released the following opening statement for the hearing:

"Secretary Donley, General Schwartz, it is good to have you here with us today. We appreciate all you do, and are truly grateful to have leaders like you in service to our nation.

"Gentlemen, I want to take a minute to applaud both of you for your remarks at the recent Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis conference. General Schwartz, at that event you acknowledged that the Air Force has 'had a short term and somewhat, now-focused, fix-it sort of perspective.' I agree with you on that point and I also agree that it is not good for the long-term health of the institution.

"Secretary Donley, I believe you were also on the right track when you said that the Air Force needs to remain vigilant in tying your work to the National Security Strategy, the QDR and the larger national security community. I'd caveat that by saying that your efforts will only prove successful if the National Security Strategy and the QDR provide appropriate guidance.

"As you all know, we recently had Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and Secretary Flournoy before this committee and many of our members - Republican and Democrat alike - expressed concern that the 2010 QDR and the fiscal year 2011 budget are overly focused on the short-term and fail to adequately address strategic risks.

"I strongly believe that if we are to be successful in providing for a military that is ready and capable of responding to a broad array of challenges, we must take care that we don't shape our forces for the counter-insurgency battles of Iraq and Afghanistan at the expense of conventional defense capabilities.

"We can only address both of these challenges to our national security with clear strategic guidance and commitment of appropriate resources. I am very concerned that the QDR and the 2011 budget request provide neither.

"The near-term focus of the QDR is very alarming when you consider the impact to the Air Force. Decisions to reduce fighter force structure, space systems, and missile defense capabilities cannot be easily undone. We can't feasibly restart production of F-22s and we can't field new satellites or missile defense systems the way we surged MRAPs.

"I would also like to take a moment to express my continued opposition to this year's proposed retirement of 250 F-15s, F-16s and A-10s. I recently visited with General Roger Brady, the Commander of US Air Forces in Europe.

"He is very concerned about the impact of these force reductions on our capability to engage and build partnerships with our friends and allies in Europe. In his words, our basing and force structure is not aligned with our foreign policy.

"He strongly believes that if we take those fighters out of Europe they will only be back to fight the war they were there to deter. I would argue that the same holds true in the Pacific theater.

"As aptly noted in your IFPA remarks, Secretary Donley, presence is essential to successful engagement. Our capabilities must be sufficiently robust and flexible to support a broad range of engagement needs.

"I also look forward to you directly addressing the President's State of the Union call to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. Before the President or special interests force a change in the policy or law, Congress deserves to see from the services concrete, in-depth evidence that such a change would improve wartime military readiness in any measurable, significant way.

"Many of us on this Committee have serious concerns with putting our men and women in uniform through such a divisive debate while they are fighting two wars.

"Since today's hearing focus limits the amount of time we can spend discussing Don't Ask Don't Tell, I have echoed Mrs. Davis's request for you to appear at the military personnel subcommittee hearing on this issue March 3rd. I would hope we can work that out.

"Gentlemen, I look forward our discussion today and hearing more from you on your vision and strategic goals. I believe the Air Force is at a critical juncture - one that will prove to be historic. We must be wise in path we chose."

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