“I want to welcome all of our members and our distinguished panel of experts to today’s hearing focused on total force readiness and how we resource, train, and equip our military for the challenges they face.
“No one will dispute that we have the most capable and professional military in the world. However, I worry about our state of readiness, not for mastheads on the horizon or columns of tanks rolling toward us, but for the looming defense budget cuts many in this Congress seem willing to inflict on our military.
“Two weeks ago, this subcommittee heard about the challenges the Navy has faced in preserving and enhancing its readiness and current capabilities. I suspect we will hear today how our other military services face many of the same challenges and how they all would be negatively impacted by hundreds-of-billions of dollars in budget cuts.
“As we consider our deficit, federal spending, and the impact on our defense budget, I believe we should be asking four questions:
“First, ‘What are the threats we face?’ Second, ‘What resources do our combatant commanders need to protect us against those threats?’ Third, ‘What do these resources cost and how can we obtain them as efficiently as possible?’ and fourth, ‘What can we afford and what are the risks to our nation if we do not supply those resources?’
“I believe many in Congress and the White House have been asking only the portion of question four that asks how much they want to expend, and they have been ignoring the other questions almost entirely.
“However, in January, Chairman Mullen was quoted saying that ‘any significant additional budget cuts can almost only be met…through substantial reductions in force structure’ which goes ‘against the national security requirements that we see in the world we're living in.’"
“Similarly, just before his departure in June, Secretary Gates warned that ‘no further [budgetary] reductions should be considered without an honest and thorough assessment of the risks involved, to include the missions we may need to shed in the future.’
“I realize that our witnesses today are in a difficult position. I would simply ask, 'Help us help you.' I hope our frank discussion during this hearing can help us all better understand the seriousness of the challenges we face and those still ahead. We must not let our legacy be one of overseeing the slow dismantlement of the greatest military on earth.
“We all have a responsibility to ensure our men and women in uniform are given all the tools necessary for the job we have asked them to do. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.”