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Budget Safeguards Joint Force Versatility, Dempsey Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON — As declining resources necessitate increased national security risks, a predictable funding stream is crucial, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on the defense portion of the president’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said that, in a time of extraordinary uncertainty, the men and women in uniform are steadfast in their courage and devotion to duty, and their dedication empowers the military to fulfill multiple simultaneous -- and sometimes competing -- missions in Afghanistan and around the world.

Soon, the Afghan military will take the lead for security across the country, the chairman said.

“As they gain confidence, so too do the Afghan people,” he noted.

Elsewhere in the world, the joint force is deterring aggression and assuring allies, Dempsey said. The United States continues to work closely with its allies and partners to defend against cyberattacks, to defeat al-Qaida, to rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and to adjust to “a new normal” in the Middle East and North Africa, he said.

“We're also working with others to keep Syria's complex conflict from de-stabilizing the region,” the chairman added.

“We must also be ready with options for an uncertain and dangerous future,” Dempsey said. “This budget was purpose-built to keep our nation immune from coercion. It aims to restore versatility to a more affordable joint force in support of our defense strategy.”

The proposed budget does not reflect the full impact of sequestration, the nation’s top military officer said. “It does impose less reduction, and it gives us more time. However, uncertainty persists about what the top line will be for this or any other future budget.”

Funds to restore readiness lost due to fiscal 2013 shortfalls aren’t included in the president’s proposal, he said. Training for many units not expected to deploy already has been curtailed or canceled, the chairman said, noting that restoring readiness is more expensive than maintaining it.

“Recovery costs will compete now with the cost of building the joint force in the future,” Dempsey told the House panel.

The budget does invest in defense priorities, he said. It keeps the force in balance, supports forward-deployed operations, upholds funding for emerging capabilities and funds critical conventional and nuclear capabilities. “It also lowers manpower costs [and] reduces excess infrastructure, and it makes health care more sustainable,” Dempsey added.

“Most importantly,” the chairman said, “it protects investment in our real decisive advantage -- in our people. It treats being the best-led, the best-trained and the best-equipped force as the non-negotiable imperative.”

The nation must honor its commitments to the force, Dempsey said.

“For many veterans, returning home is a new front line in the struggle with wounds seen and unseen,” he said. “We must continue to invest in world-class treatments for mental health issues, traumatic brain injury and combat stress.”

Dempsey added: “We also have a shared responsibility to address the urgent issue of suicide with the same devotion we have shown to protecting our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in combat.

“The risks inherent to military service must not include sexual assault,” he continued. “Sexual assault betrays the trust -- the very trust on which our profession is founded. We will pursue every option to drive this crime from our ranks.”

The military is at a defining moment, the chairman said.

“Our warriors’ will to win is undaunted,” Dempsey said, “but the means to prepare to win are becoming uncertain. We have an opportunity -- actually, an obligation -- with this and any future budget to restore confidence. We have it within us to stay strong as a global leader, and as a reliable partner.

“The joint force is looking to us ... to lead through this period of historical fiscal correction, but we can't do it alone,” he continued. “As I have said before, ... we need budget certainty, we need time, and we need flexibility. And this means a predictable funding stream. It means the time to deliberately evaluate trade-offs in force structure, modernization, compensation and readiness. And it means the full flexibility to keep the force in balance.”