US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to reporters Dec. 10 at Al Udeid Airbase, Qatar. (Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Even if the US Congress adopts a bipartisan budget deal reached by two senior lawmakers, the Pentagon still needs to make “tough decisions” about military force structure, equipment and readiness, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday.
Hagel, who returned Tuesday from a multination visit to the Middle East, spoke with House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Wednesday night thanking them for helping develop a bipartisan budget agreement. The deal would restore $22.5 billion to the Defense Department’s 2014 budget and $9 billion in 2015.
“Tough decisions will still be necessary going forward in order to achieve the right balance in military capacity, capabilities and readiness,” Hagel said. “The Department of Defense will need more flexibility, and we will continue to look to Congress as a vital partner in our efforts to realign priorities and address needed reforms in areas like military compensation in order to maximize our military’s fighting strength.”
The Pentagon’s $527 billion fiscal 2014 budget proposal is $52 billion above federal spending caps. If Congress approves the Ryan-Murray measure, the DoD budget would be about $498 billion.
“The deal they reached reduces the impact of sequestration cuts and provides the Department of Defense with greater budget certainty, which is important for us to be able to plan effectively,” Hagel said. “While this agreement doesn’t solve every budget problem facing DoD, it will help address our military readiness challenge by restoring funding for training and procurement — especially in fiscal year 2014.”