Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he needs 'flexibility' from Congress in its fiscal 2015 budget proposal. (Glenn Fawcett / Office of the Secretary of Defense)
WASHINGTON — US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged Congress on Tuesday to give the Pentagon “flexibility” in its fiscal 2015 budget proposal one day after the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee proposed shifting billions of dollars to fund major weapons programs and undo Defense Department reform initiatives.
“Sustaining our edge in the face of new strategic and fiscal challenges will require Congress’ partnership in making tough choices, always looking at our broader national interests instead of narrow constituencies,” Hagel said during a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “It will require Congress to provide the Pentagon with the resources and flexibility we need to meet our national security responsibilities.”
Hagel said there must be tradeoffs to protect military readiness, including personnel reforms, which have largely been rejected by Congress.
“If we get this flexibility, the United States military will emerge from this period having sustained, and even sharpened, its decisive edge,” he said. “Doing so will support America’s global leadership, enhance our credibility abroad, and ultimately ensure our security at home.”
Hagel said the Pentagon’s 2015 budget proposal “makes a series of tough choices to match resources to real strategic priorities and missions.” If these choices are not made now, DoD will have a force that is “large, but not sufficiently ready or capable to meet national security requirements.”
“We have to build for the future and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Hagel said.
On Monday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., submitted legislation in his mark-up of the 2015 defense authorization bill that would force DoD to redo its latest military strategy, the quadrennial defense review.
McKeon’s bill authorizes $521.3 billion in base Pentagon spending, and $79.4 billion for overseas contingency operations, an amount that, if enacted, would be $30.7 billion smaller than the amount authorized for 2014.
The bill also limits the retirements of Air Force A-10 attack jets and the U-2 spy plane.