Calvert Remarks at FY24 Budget Hearing for the Department of Defense (As Prepared)

Mar 23, 2023

The Defense Subcommittee will come to order.

Today, the Subcommittee will receive testimony from:

  • the Honorable Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense;
  • General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;
  • and Undersecretary Mike McCord, the Department’s Comptroller and CFO.

The Department of Defense is requesting $825 billion within this subcommittee’s jurisdiction.  This is a modest increase from fiscal year 2023 levels, particularly as we enter the middle of a decisive decade for the security and prosperity of our nation and the world.

In many ways, the Biden Administration has put the United States at a serious disadvantage. 

First, a short sighted, political decision, to conduct a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan resulted in a rapid resumption of power by the Taliban, the return of a permissive operating space for al-Qaeda, a strategic failure of geopolitical competition, and ultimately, the tragic loss of 13 U.S. service members at Abbey Gate.

One of the brave Americans lost that day was Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, my constituent. His death should have never happened, and I am still waiting for a sliver of accountability from this President and an answer to when the people who orchestrated this attack will be brought to justice.

This is to say nothing of the thousands of unvetted Afghans allowed to depart the country for U.S. and allied soil.  Some of which may be the thousands of terrorists released from the prison at Bagram Airfield. Secretary Austin, these events have made the world a more dangerous place.

Moreover, this Administration’s concept of “integrated deterrence” failed to deter Putin from invading Ukraine and waging the largest conflict in Europe since World War II

It is well documented that President Biden and his national security team knew that Russia would invade months in advance.  Frankly, there was open-source information that foreshadowed the invasion.

The Administration had an opportunity - before a single shot was fired - to rally NATO, arm Ukraine, and make clear to Putin and his thugs that Russian aggression towards a sovereign Ukraine would come at a tremendous cost to them. 

But the Biden National Security team failed to act quickly, and today they continue to compound this error by giving Ukraine just enough assistance to survive, but not enough to win.

Even today, as Russia and Ukraine prepare for spring offensives, the Administration has testified that it is not requesting additional funding. By our assessment, however, your remaining presidential drawdown authority for security assistance will only last another 2-3 months.

I want to be clear; Congress will not be writing blank checks. It is important that you communicate future requests for funding for Ukraine clearly, thoroughly, and early. Congress will need sufficient time to review and ask questions on any request submitted.

In isolation, the failings I detailed are unconscionable, but events do not happen in a vacuum.  The Administration’s continued failure to anticipate and implement a coherent geopolitical strategy is now compounded by China’s rapid modernization and preparations to attempt to reclaim Taiwan in this decade. Weakness is provocative and this Administration’s weakness has emboldened authoritarians around the world.

Today, China, not the US, is brokering peace negotiations in the Middle east. The US is losing influence as the world's “partner of choice” and the reason is all too clear. 

In terms of our own modernization, too many of our weapon systems are delayed due to a status quo, risk-averse mindset; the bureaucracy of the procurement process; and a lack of consistency for our defense industrial base.

By the assessment of some senior defense officials and military leaders, a modernized U.S. force in 2030 will arrive too late to deter a forced reunification of Taiwan by the Chinese Communist Party.

As General Douglas MacArthur famously said,

“The history of failure in war can be summed up in two words: ‘Too late.’ Too late in comprehending the deadly purpose of a potential enemy. Too late in realizing the mortal danger. Too late in preparing. Too late in uniting all possible forces for resistance.” 

Two words: Too late.

We must be ready to fight tonight and rapidly modernize to maintain the world’s greatest fighting force. To pick one over the other is a false choice.

I do not want to be the Chairman presiding over World War III.  I hope to hear how this budget changes China’s increasingly aggressive behavior today, not tomorrow, or in 2030.

With a budget of over $800 billion, 3.4 million employees and a physical presence of over 4,000 sites in over 160 countries, the Department of Defense is also the world’s largest business. I expect the Department to implement efficiencies and identify cost-savings measures in its business operations.

Today, the DOD relies on too many antiquated systems that cannot talk to each other and too many manual processes.  These outdated systems and processes lead to unsuccessful financial audits, duplication of effort, a frustrated workforce where top talent is difficult to retain, and an unsustainable trajectory for personnel costs. And this year you are requesting 3,500 more people. For what?

The same Department that develops 6th generation fighters is running 2nd generation IT systems; and the resulting inefficiencies are eating into the Department’s ability to invest in the future.

Regardless of the challenges we face internally and externally, I will ensure that our service members and their families have the best quality of life we can afford, and that they have the best equipment possible, so if we get into a fight, we win, and they lose. That’s it.

Before we hear from our witnesses, I would like to recognize the distinguished Ranking Member, Ms. McCollum, for any opening comments.