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EDITORS NOTE: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta presented a statement on Feb. 14 in Washington, D.C. to the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding Commander In Chief Barack Obama's budget plans, focusing on the Department of Defense's role. The following is the statement Panetta presented.

"Chairman Levin, Senator McCain, members of the committee. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the President's budget request for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13).

Let me begin by first thanking you for your support for our service members and our military families. These brave men and women, along with the Department's civilian professionals who support them, have done everything asked of them and more during more than a decade of war.

Defense Strategy Review

The FY13 budget request for the Department of Defense was the product of an intensive strategy review conducted by the senior military and civilian leaders of the Department with the advice and guidance of President Obama. The total request represents a $614 billion investment in national defense - including a $525.4 billion request for the Department's base budget, and $88.5 billion in spending to support our troops in combat.

The reasons for this review are clear: first, the United States is at a strategic turning point after a decade of war and substantial growth in defense budgets. Second, with the nation confronting very large debt and deficits, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, imposing limits that led to a reduction in the defense budget of $487 billion over the next decade.

Deficit reduction is a critical national security priority in and of itself. We at the Department decided that this crisis presented us with the opportunity to establish a new strategy for the force of the future, and that strategy has guided us in making the budget choices contained in the President's budget. We are at an important turning point that would have required us to make a strategic shift under any circumstances. The U.S. military's mission in Iraq has ended. We still have a tough fight on our hands in Afghanistan, but over the past year we have begun a transition to Afghan-led responsibility for security- and we are on track to complete that transition by the end of 2014, in accordance with our Lisbon commitments. Last year, the NATO effort in Libya also concluded with the fall of Qadhafi. And successful counterterrorism efforts have significantly weakened al-Qaeda and decimated its leadership.

But despite what we have been able to achieve, unlike past drawdowns when threats have receded, the United States still faces a complex array of security challenges across the globe: We are still a nation at war in Afghanistan; we still face threats from terrorism; there is dangerous proliferation of lethal weapons and materials; the behavior of Iran and North Korea threaten global stability; there is continuing turmoil and unrest in the Middle East; rising powers in Asia are testing international relationships; and there are growing concerns about cyber intrusions and attacks. Our challenge is to meet these threats and at the same time, meet our responsibility to fiscal discipline. This is not an easy task.

To build the force we need for the future, we developed new strategic guidance that consists of these five key elements:

- First, the military will be smaller and leaner, but it will be agile, flexible, ready and technologically advanced.

- Second, we will rebalance our global posture and presence to emphasize Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.

- Third, we will build innovative partnerships and strengthen key alliances and partnerships elsewhere in the world.

- Fourth, we will ensure that we can quickly confront and defeat aggression from any adversary - anytime, anywhere.

- Fifth, we will protect and prioritize key investments in technology and new capabilities, as well as our capacity to grow, adapt and mobilize as needed.

Strategy to FY13 Budget

We developed this new strategic guidance before any final budget decisions were made to ensure that the budget choices reflected the new defense strategy.

While shaping this strategy, we did not want to repeat the mistakes of the past. Our goals were: to maintain the strongest military in the world, to not "hollow out" the force, to take a balanced approach to budget cuts, to put everything on the table, and to not break faith with troops and their families. Throughout the review we made sure this was an inclusive process, and General Dempsey and I worked closely with the leadership of the Services and Combatant Commanders, and consulted regularly with members of Congress.

As a result of these efforts, the Department is strongly united behind the recommendations we are presenting today. Consistent with Title I of the Budget Control Act, this budget reflects $259 billion in savings over the next five years and $487 billion over the next ten years compared to the budget plan submitted to Congress last year. Under the five year budget plan, the base budget will rise from $525 billion in FY13 to $567 billion in FY17. When reduced war-related funding requirements are included, we expect total U.S. defense spending to drop by more than 20 percent over the next few years from its peak in 2010, after accounting for inflation.

This is a balanced and complete package that follows the key elements of the strategy and adheres to the guidelines we established. The savings come from three broad areas:

- First, efficiencies - we redoubled efforts to make more disciplined use of taxpayer dollars, yielding about one quarter of the target savings;

- Second, force structure and procurement adjustments - we made strategy-driven changes in force structure and procurement programs, achieving roughly half of the savings;

- Finally, compensation - we made modest but important adjustments in personnel costs to achieve some necessary cost savings in this area, which represents one third of the budget but accounted for a little more than 10 percent of the total reduction.

Changes in economic assumptions and other shifts account for the remainder of the $259 billion in savings. Let me walk through these three areas, beginning with our efforts to discipline our use of defense dollars.

More Disciplined Use of Defense Dollars

If we are to tighten up the force, I felt we have to begin by tightening up the operations of the Department. This budget continues efforts to reduce excess overhead, eliminate waste, and improve business practices across the department. The more savings realized in this area, the less spending reductions required for modernization programs, force structure, and military compensation.

As you know, the FY12 budget proposed more than $150 billion in efficiencies between FY 2012 and FY 2016, and we continue to implement those changes. This budget identifies about $60 billion in additional savings over five years. Across the military services, new efficiency efforts over the next five years include:

- The Army proposes to save $18.6 billion through measures such as streamlining support functions, consolidating IT enterprise services, and rephasing military construction projects;

- The Navy proposes to save $5.7 billion by implementing strategic sourcing of commodities and services, consolidating inventory, and other measures;

- The Air Force proposes to save $6.6 billion by reducing service support contractors and rephasing military construction projects;

Other proposed DoD-wide efficiency savings over the next five years total $30.1 billion, including reductions in expenses in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Agencies.

Additionally, we are continuing the initiative to improve the Department's buying power by seeking greater efficiency and productivity in the acquisition of goods and services. We are strengthening acquisition support to the warfighter, executing acquisitions more efficiently, preserving the industrial base, and strengthening the acquisition workforce. This budget assumes that these policies produce savings of $5.3 billion over the next five years.

In terms of military infrastructure, we will need to ensure that our current basing and infrastructure requirements do not divert resources from badly needed capabilities.

As we reduce force structure, we have a responsibility to provide the most cost efficient support for the force. For that reason, the President will request that Congress authorize the Base Realignment and Closure process for 2013 and 2015. As someone who went through BRAC, I realize how controversial this process can be for members and constituencies. And yet, it is the only effective way to achieve infrastructure savings.

Achieving audit readiness is another key initiative that will help the Department achieve greater discipline in its use of defense dollars. The Department needs auditable financial statements to comply with the law, to strengthen its own internal processes, and to reassure the public that it continues to be a good steward of federal funds. In October 2011, I directed the Department to emphasize this initiative and accelerate efforts to achieve fully auditable financial statements. Among other specific goals, I directed the Department achieve audit readiness of the Statement of Budgetary Resources for general funds by the end of calendar year 2014, and to meet the legal requirements to achieve full audit readiness for all Defense Department financial statements by 2017. We are also implementing a course-based certification program for defense financial managers in order to improve training in audit readiness and other areas, with pilot programs beginning this year. We now have a plan in place to meet these deadlines, including specific goals, financial resources, and a governance structure.

These are all critically important efforts to ensure the Department operates in the most efficient manner possible. Together, these initiatives will help ensure the Department can preserve funding for the force structure and modernization needed to support the missions of our force.

Strategy-driven Changes in Force Structure and Programs

It is obvious that we cannot achieve the overall savings targets through efficiencies alone. Budget reductions of this magnitude require significant adjustments to force structure and investments, but the choices we made reflected five key elements of the defense strategic guidance and vision for the military.

1. Build a force that is smaller and leaner, but agile, flexible, ready and technologically advanced

We knew that coming out of the wars, the military would be smaller. Our approach to accommodating these reductions, however, has been to take this as an opportunity - as tough as it is - to fashion the agile and flexible military we need for the future. That highly networked and capable joint force consists of:

- an adaptable and battle-tested Army that is our nation's force for decisive action, capable of defeating any adversary on land;

- a Navy that maintains forward presence and is able to penetrate enemy defenses;

- a Marine Corps that is a "middleweight" expeditionary force with reinvigorated amphibious capabilities

- an Air Force that dominates air and space and provides rapid mobility, global strike and persistent ISR, and;

- National Guard and Reserve components that continue to be ready and prepared for operations when needed.

To ensure an agile force, we made a conscious choice not to maintain more force structure than we could afford to properly train and equip. We are implementing force structure reductions consistent with the new strategic guidance for a total savings of about $50 billion over the next five years.

These adjustments include:

- Gradually resizing the active Army to 490,000, eliminating a minimum of eight BCTs and developing a plan to update the Army's brigade structure;

- Gradually resizing the active Marine Corps to about 182,100, eliminating six combat battalions and four Tactical Air squadrons;

- Reducing and streamlining the Air Force's airlift fleet by retiring all 27 C-5As, 65 of the oldest C-130s and divesting all 38 C-27s. After retirements, the Air Force will maintain a fleet of 275 strategic airlifters, and 318 C-130s - a number that we have determined is sufficient to meet the airlift requirements of the new strategy, including the Air Force's commitment for direct support of the Army;

- Eliminating seven Air Force Tactical Air squadrons - including five A-10 squadrons, one F-16 squadron, and one F-15 training squadron. The Air Force will retain 54 combat-coded fighter squadrons, maintaining the capabilities and capacity needed to meet the new strategic guidance;

- Retiring seven lower priority Navy cruisers that have not been upgraded with ballistic missile defense capability or that would require significant repairs, as well as retiring two dock landing ships.

To continue reading the entire statement from SECDEF Panetta, visit: www.dcmilitary.com