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Carter Describes Security Challenges, Budget Issues at Senate Panel Hearing

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2016 — With just eight days remaining before the end of the fiscal year, Defense Secretary Ash Carter today implored the Senate Armed Services Committee to pass the fiscal year 2017 defense budget request.

Carter and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared before the committee to testify on national security challenges and ongoing military operations.

Carter said the U.S. military’s five key challenges involve Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. He also outlined the many significant achievements made in Iraq and Syria against ISIL, and said while work remains, the U.S.-led coalition is making progress.

Carter: Grave Budget Concerns

The secretary took on a more serious tone when he said that as an institution, DoD has three grave budgetary concerns with which Congress can help.

“One [is] budget gridlock and instability,” Carter said. “Two; micromanagement and overregulation, and three: denial of needed reforms. As you've heard consistently from me and DOD senior leaders, all three are serious concerns.”

DoD needs Congress to come together around providing normal, stable, responsible budgets, Carter told the committee.

“The lack of [budget] stability,” he said, “represents one of the single-biggest strategic risks to our enterprise at DoD ...You heard the same from the service chiefs last week. Such budget instability undercuts stable planning, the efficient use of taxpayer dollars [and] often in ways taxpayers can't even see.”

Impact of Budget Uncertainties

Budget uncertainty baffles U.S. allies and emboldens its foes, the secretary said.

“It's managerially and strategically unsound, and it's unfairly dispiriting to our troops, to their families and our workforce,” he said. “And it's inefficient for our defense industry partners.”

Now, just eight days away from the end of the fiscal year, Carter said, “instead of stability, we're going into fiscal year 2017 with yet another continuing resolution … for the eighth fiscal year in a row, [and] that's a deplorable state of affairs.”

The longer a continuing resolution lasts, the more damaging it is, the secretary said.

“It's not just a matter of money,” he said, “but where the dollars are. For example, the CR that goes past December would undermine our plan to quadruple our European Reassurance Initiative.”

This is a time when the United States must be with its NATO allies and stand up to deter Russian aggression, Carter added.

“However, I cannot support any approach to the defense budget that moves us toward sequestration, or away from bipartisanship. And not at the expense of stability that comes with it. Not if it short changes the needs of our warfighters,” the secretary said.

“[And] not if it means funding lower priorities instead of higher priorities,” he added. “Not if it undermines confidence and the ability to pass bipartisan budget deals, which could lead to the imposition of sequestrations, $100 billion in looming automatic cuts to us.”

“I'm confident and hopeful that we can come back together again,” Carter told members of the Senate panel.

“Today, America is fortunate to have the world's greatest military. Our friends and allies know it, and critically, our potential adversaries know it too,” he added.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)