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Defense Operating on Many Fronts, Dempsey Tells Congress

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON — The Defense Department and Congress can work together to sustain a balanced and peerless force, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told members of the House Appropriations Committee today.

During testimony with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on the defense portion of the president’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said that, despite serving in a time of extraordinary uncertainty, "our men and women in uniform are steadfast in their devotion to duty."

U.S. military forces are deployed around the world, the chairman said, and performing complex and demanding missions. In Afghanistan, troops are simultaneously fighting, transitioning and redeploying.

"Our joint force has been vigilant elsewhere as well," he said. In Northeast Asia and the Middle East, U.S. military forces are deterring aggression and assuring allies in the face of provocation, Dempsey said.

Through close relationships with interagency and international partners, the department is defending the nation against cyberattacks and acting to defeat al-Qaida, the chairman said.

"We're rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific and adapting our force posture to a new normal of combustible violence in North Africa and in the Middle East, and we're also working with others to keep Syria's very complex conflict from destabilizing the entire region,” Dempsey said. “We're prepared with options should military force be called upon, … assuming it can be used effectively to secure our interests without making matters worse."

Citing an "uncertain and dangerous future," Dempsey said the president's budget proposal was purpose-built to protect the nation from coercion.

"It aims to restore our versatility to a more affordable joint force in support of our defense strategy," the general told the House panel.

However, he said, the budget does not reflect the full impact sequestration spending cuts will have on readiness. It gives the department more time to adjust and absorb the cuts, but uncertainty persists, he added.

The department still is accumulating the information needed to determine the costs incurred due to curtailed and cancelled training, the chairman said. Restoring readiness is more expensive than maintaining it, he said, and these costs are not accounted for in the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget.

"That's concerning," he added. “Recovery costs will compete now with our ability to build the joint force in the out years.”

The proposed budget does keep the force balanced, the nation's top military officer said. It supports forward-deployed operations, upholds funding for emerging capabilities, lowers manpower costs, reduces excess infrastructure and makes health care more sustainable, he said.

"Most importantly," the chairman continued, "it invests in our true, decisive advantage, which is our people. It treats being the best-led, the best-trained and the best-equipped military as the non-negotiable imperative.”

The nation has a shared imperative to honor its commitment to its military and veterans, he said, by continuing to support investment in world-class medical treatment and by battling suicides and sexual assault.

"The joint force is looking for us to lead them through this period of historic fiscal correction," the chairman said. "But we can't do it alone."

"We have an … obligation, with this, and every future budget, to restore confidence," Dempsey said. "We have it within us to stay strong as a global leader and as a reliable partner."

This will require time, flexibility and budget certainty, he said.

"And that means a predictable funding stream,” he added. “It means the time to deliberately evaluate the trade-offs and force structure, modernization, compensation and readiness. And it means the full flexibility to keep the force in balance."