Calvert Remarks at FY24 Defense Appropriations Bill Full Committee Markup
Thank you, Chairwoman Granger. I appreciate your leadership and your continued support of our men and women in uniform.
I also want to recognize my friend, our Subcommittee’s Ranking Member, Ms. McCollum. We have been each other’s Chair or Ranking Member for many years now, and I appreciate our relationship.
The fiscal year 2024 Defense Appropriations bill provides $826.45 billion for the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community.
This is $286 million above the President’s request and $27.8 billion above the Fiscal Year 2023 enacted level.
The stated mission of the Department of Defense is “to provide the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation’s security.” Our bill does exactly that by focusing on the DOD’s most vital task – protecting our homeland and our national interests.
Despite the Administration’s late submission of its budget request, the Defense Subcommittee held six hearings and seven classified sessions to inform the Fiscal Year 2024 funding bill.
When I became Chairman of the Subcommittee, I made it clear to the Department they would not receive any blank checks. Any request that lacked adequate justification, was early to when the funds were needed, had unjustified cost growth, or did not directly support DOD’s mission would not be funded in this bill.
In total, the bill cuts approximately $20 billion from the President’s request and reinvests these funds into warfighting capabilities and additional support for our servicemembers.
It is important to emphasize that providing funds for a program without stringent oversight often leads to bad outcomes. I know that all of us here today take seriously our constitutional role to ensure taxpayer funds are used wisely. This continued oversight is a critical function of our role as appropriators.
In many cases, reductions were made because the Department failed to justify the request.
One example is the Department’s request for economic order quantities for certain munitions tied to multiyear procurement.
As many of you know, multiyear procurement is a contracting vehicle used to achieve savings and send a strong signal to the industrial base. The Subcommittee sees value in the use of these contracts when appropriate, which is why this bill authorizes multiyear procurement for five critical munitions.
However, the Department failed to justify why they also need nearly $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2024 to shore up contractors who have received a steady demand signal through the funds provided in annual appropriation bills and recent supplementals.
This is in addition to the $20 billion funded across the military Service missile and ammunition accounts, including the $4 billion provided for these 5 specific munitions, and the $1 billion in direct industrial base investment.
Because of the poor justification, other urgent unfunded needs, and sufficient enduring support for the munitions industrial base, the bill does not fund this request.
But let me be clear. This reduction will NOT adversely impact the ability of industry to produce these munitions. It merely requires the Department to request the funding they need to execute these contracts in their annual budget requests. Further, it reinforces to the Department that this Committee will not cede its annual oversight responsibilities, especially for concepts that are poorly justified.
Turning to the specifics of the bill, the Subcommittee’s top priorities for this year are:
- Investing in America’s military superiority to deter the People’s Republic of China;
- Combatting illicit fentanyl and synthetic opioids;
- Shaping a more efficient and effective workforce;
- Creating a culture of innovation;
- Enhancing oversight of all programs to ensure the appropriate use of tax dollars, and
- Taking care of servicemembers and their families.
To counter China, this bill doubles funding for the International Security Cooperation Programs for Taiwan, provides an additional $200 million to accelerate the delivery of the E-7, prohibits the decommissioning of 4 ships to grow the fleet, adds aircraft like the F-35 and CH-53K, continues investments in next-generation platforms, and supports recapitalization of the nuclear triad.
To enhance DOD’s efforts to counter the flow of deadly drugs into the country, the bill includes a historic investment of $1.1 billion in the drug interdiction and counter-drug activities account, including increased funding for counter-narcotics support, demand reduction, the National Guard Counter-Drug Program, and National Guard Counter-Drug Schools. The bill also moves Mexico into the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility, which will foster a more holistic approach to Latin American security issues.
To drive reforms to the Department’s workforce, this bill cuts over $1 billion from the budget request for the Department’s civilian workforce, while exempting employees engaged in shipyard, depot, health care, and sexual assault and response duties.
This bill accomplishes this goal through attrition. I want to be clear that no one will be fired as a result of this language. During our analysis of the budget request, the Services and agencies across DOD reported attrition rates as high as 14%. This bill directs DOD to adopt smart business practices to become more effective and efficient, which is desperately needed.
The bill also mandates a reassessment of the DOD’s manpower requirements, a plan to adopt technology to improve its business processes and provides $751 million for the Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Office to further accelerate business modernization. This multi-pronged approach is critical to create a fiscally sustainable and efficient workforce and is informed by previous Defense reform efforts.
Next, we all are aware that the Department must innovate faster to keep pace with global threats. To do this, the bill includes over $1 billion to the Defense Innovation Unit to field capability. The bill also includes $300 million to expand the very successful procurement pilot program APFIT. Further, it creates a new portfolio to rapidly field commercial technologies for the warfighter through non-traditional entities within the Department.
It also provides $220 million to directly support the Combatant Commanders to rapidly acquire systems and weapons that are urgently needed in the field.
To get the Department focused on its warfighting mission and away from culture wars, the bill includes a number of new general provisions that send a clear message to the Department.
These include funding prohibitions on teaching Critical Race Theory, facilitating access to abortions by ignoring the long-standing Hyde Amendment, funding gender transition surgeries, and promoting of so-called Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs.
I know that many of you here today will be very critical of these new riders. I wish they weren’t necessary. Unfortunately, the current leadership of the Department of Defense is inappropriately using the military as a means to carry out a partisan, divisive political agenda.
It is the Department's own leadership – not us, who are creating these issues. When the Department notified the Committee of many of their new policies, particularly its new abortion policy, I warned them that doing so would provoke a response from Congress. And here we are.
These new general provisions are necessary to ensure the DOD is focused on its mission and is able to tell potential recruits they won’t be forced into being part of a social agenda with which they may not agree. The fact that the Committee has to address such issues reflects the failure of the Department’s leadership.
Finally, investments in weapons systems do not matter if we fail to invest in our most important resource, our servicemembers. Thanks to Mike Garcia’s efforts, junior enlisted servicemembers will receive an average pay increase of 30%. This will have a significant impact on recruitment, retention, and will improve the quality of life for our servicemembers and their families.
As appropriators, it is our responsibility to ensure our military has the resources necessary deter conflict and if we do get into a fight, we win, they lose. This bill makes it clear to any adversary that challenging the United States military is not in their best interest.
Finally, I would like to thank all the staff for the incredible work they do to vet the President’s request, work with Members, put forward recommendations, and assemble the final product.
On Defense Appropriations, I would like to acknowledge:
My Clerk, Johnnie Kaberle
Thank you to all our associate staff and Fellows who were also instrumental in this process.
I look forward to working with all of you here today to ensure we get this bill enacted before the end of the fiscal year and that we provide for the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Madam Chairwoman, I yield back.