Chair McCollum Statement at Fiscal Year 2023 Department of Defense Hearing

2022-05-11 10:38

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chair of the Defense Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the subcommittee's CLOSED hearing on the Fiscal Year 2023 Department of Defense. 

This morning the Subcommittee will receive testimony from:

•    The Honorable Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, and

•    General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

•    And to help answer extremely technical questions they are joined by 
Undersecretary Mike McCord, Comptroller

Gentlemen, thank you for participating and I welcome you to the subcommittee.

The Biden Administration released its Fiscal Year 2023 budget request in March. As always, this subcommittee will have an aggressive schedule to review the request, make adjustments, and pass the bill out of committee in June. Our goal will be to go to the floor with the appropriations bills in July and get them to the President’s desk by October. We know that speed is of the essence. Because both here at home and around the world, democracy and democratic values are under threat. And Congress must make every effort to pass these appropriations bills on time.

For Fiscal Year 2023, the President has proposed $762 billion within our subcommittee’s jurisdiction. This is a $33 billion or 4.6% increase over what was enacted for Fiscal Year 2022.  Make no mistake, we will ensure that the Department of Defense has the resources needed to protect our country. But to put this topline number in perspective - in 2015, when we were still fighting in Afghanistan, the Department received $560 billion. That is an increase in defense spending of over $200 billion in just eight years.

Yes, the world has changed rapidly in recent years. But our response to the war in Ukraine is instructive - not only in the importance of having a strong military deterrence, but also in the power of robust diplomatic efforts to rally the world in opposition to authoritarianism.  We must have both to ensure our national security. And it is our responsibility as Congress to strike that correct balance - between defense, diplomacy, and development. The war in Ukraine has also made clear that the foundational tasks of properly manning, training, equipping, and maintaining a modern military is essential to success in 21st Century conflicts. The poor performance of the Russian military has highlighted this fact. 

Taking care of our personnel and their families, providing our service members with the best training possible, ensuring that logistical challenges can be overcome, and giving decision makers the best intelligence available are vital components of making sure our military can fight and win in any conflict. 

Procurement and modernization are of course important, and we always want to have a qualitative military edge. But it does not matter if we have a 355 ship Navy with the most advanced weaponry if we cannot perform basic maintenance to keep ships in service. Investments in personnel, operation and maintenance, and health don’t always drive defense debates, but last year they made up 63% of our bill. And we know that there is no more critical investment than in the life, health, and safety of our service members. Members are particularly alarmed at recent events on the USS George Washington where there have been several deaths, 
including apparent suicides. The Navy has launched an investigation into these terrible tragedies and the living and working conditions on the ship - but this subcommittee stands ready to work with you on additional funding for mental health services and suicide prevention programs should those resources be necessary.

We look forward to hearing from our witnesses how the budget request prioritizes investments in our people, which are the backbone of our force. I want to commend the Department for proposing $3.1 billion in this budget for increased resiliency at installations, for energy efficiency and for research and development into clean energy. As the largest consumer of fuel in the federal government, the Department needs to do more to reduce emissions, lower the cost of energy, and fight climate change, and our subcommittee wants to work with you on these shared goals.

Finally, several of us have had the opportunity to travel to Eastern Europe in the last month to see firsthand the important work that soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and guardians are doing to help Ukraine defend itself and promote security throughout the region. We also look forward to hearing how the budget request addresses the immediate threat of Russian aggression in Europe, while making investments in future capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region.

Secretary Austin, General Milley, and Undersecretary McCord, 
thank you for your service to the country and for appearing here today.

Before we hear your testimony, I’d like to recognize our distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Calvert, for his comments.


117th Congress