Chairman Visclosky Statement at Hearing on FY 2020 Army Budget Request

2019-04-09 11:00

Congressman Pete Visclosky (IN-01), Chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the fiscal year 2020 budget request for the U.S. Army:

The Subcommittee on Defense will come to order.

This afternoon the Committee will receive testimony on the posture of the United States Army and the fiscal year 2020 budget request for the Army. 

Our two witnesses are the Honorable Dr. Mark Esper, Secretary of the Army, and General Mark A. Milley, the Chief of Staff of the Army.  We welcome you back before the Subcommittee and thank you for your service.  General Milley, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your nomination to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

In the recent past there has been some discussion over the continued need for U.S. land power.  Such speculation was clearly wrong.  Continued insecurity in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East, the rapid modernization of Russian and Chinese military capabilities, and a defiant North Korea all underscore the need for a strong, capable Army. 

The Committee has made significant investment in Army readiness over the past several years to ensure soldiers in all components are prepared for whatever our unpredictable world brings.  We have already seen the impacts of that investment through increased training, improved maintenance availability, and increased flying hours.

The Army’s FY20 budget request once again prioritizes readiness, but also focuses resources on future modernization efforts in order to support the National Defense Strategy.  This investment in the future is intended to prepare the Army to face great power competition and is led by the recently created Army Futures Command. 

However, down-payments in future, high-tech weaponry come at an expense – primarily in the form of the elimination or reduction of 186 existing procurement programs.  Many of these programs are on-time, on-budget, and bring essential capabilities to our soldiers.  The Army proposes to trade those programs for investment in future modernization, which brings with it a certain level of risk.  I strongly support the need to modernize the Army, but I have concerns with the path the FY20 budget request takes the Army down.

The Army has struggled mightily with modernization efforts over the past few decades.  We’ve always been told that “This time it’s different.”  Yet, several high-profile Army acquisition programs were ultimately cancelled after a significant investment of taxpayer’s dollars due to an incomplete requirements process.  Given the nature of the threats, we cannot afford to replicate the past.  I look forward to hearing about how the Army’s acquisition strategy in the FY20 budget request breaks this cycle.

Another challenge the Army faces is recruiting future soldiers.  The manning levels that were authorized and appropriated in fiscal year 2019 will not be reached, creating a significant surplus of funding.  We have seen similar scenarios play out over the past several years.  However, FY19 is different.  Instead of using the additional funding to invest in Army and other military priorities, we learned that the $1 billion in surplus funding will be used to finance the President’s border wall.  I should note that this Committee denied that proposal, but the Department moved forward with their plan anyway, breaking a historical agreement between this Committee and the Executive Branch.

Gentlemen, I have seen the unfunded needs for the Army and across the Services, including readiness, improved facilities, and your stated goal of modernizing the force – those needs are great.  This Committee wants to be your partner in achieving your goals, but it appalls me when the funding that Congress appropriates to enhance our military superiority is used to finance non-military functions via a unilateral decision by the President.   

With that, I thank you again for appearing before the Committee today to discuss these important issues.  We will ask you to present your summarized statement in a moment, but first I want to recognize the distinguished ranking member, Mr. Calvert, for his opening comments.

Gentlemen, your full written testimony will be placed in the record and Members have copies at their seats.  My intent is to complete two rounds of questions for each Member present.  In the interest of time, I strongly encourage you to keep your summarized statement to five minutes or less and to be complete, but succinct in responding to questions.

116th Congress