Defense Officials Highlight FY 2025 Budget Request, Call for Prompt Action on Supplemental Funding to Support Ukraine

Summary: Defense officials on Thursday outlined the Department of Defense's (DOD) Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget request, highlighting investments in advanced fighter jets, maritime forces, ground capabilities, and the nuclear enterprise while reiterating the need for prompt action on supplemental funding to support Ukraine.

Christopher Sherwood welcomed attendees and introduced Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller/Chief Financial Officer Michael J. McCord and Vice Admiral Sara A. Joyner, director for structure resources assessment with the joint staff. McCord and Joyner provided opening remarks and took questions on the budget request.

Mike McCord began by thanking Admiral Joyner and the joint staff for their contributions to the budget process, emphasizing the importance of strategy, priorities, programs, and funding levels continuity in the FY 2025 request. He noted that the topline was agreed upon in June 2023 under the Fiscal Responsibility Act and there is no supplemental funding attached to the request, emphasizing the urgency of passing the outstanding supplemental funding for Ukraine.

McCord also highlighted the negative impact of continuing resolutions, which have resulted in an average of one-third of the past 15 years stuck in budgetary limbo, and emphasized the importance of timely funding over increasing funding six months late. He outlined the FY 2023-2025 funding trajectory, which includes a one percent increase in the topline for FY 2025 compared to FY 2024, and emphasized the need to return to positive real growth in subsequent years.

McCord then turned to end strength, noting a slight decrease in total force structure compared to current projections for FY 2025, and acknowledged ongoing recruiting challenges while highlighting strong retention trends. He emphasized the importance of investing in people and their quality to ensure the success of the DOD.

Sara Joyner then provided insights into specific capability investments in the budget request, emphasizing the focus on advanced fighter and mobility platforms, maritime forces, ground capabilities, and the nuclear enterprise. She highlighted the importance of these investments in enhancing the lethality of the Joint Force and adapting to evolving threats.

Question and Answer session:

Q: Can you speak to the decision to retire the Bradley instead of the Abrams? Isn't the Abrams costing more to maintain than the Bradley?

A: While the specifics of the Bradley and Abrams are correct, the decision to retire older equipment often takes into account a combination of factors, including operational usefulness, fiscal responsibility, and strategic priorities. The decision to retire the Bradley rather than the Abrams reflects a judicious choice that balances these considerations, as the Bradley is being replaced by more modern and more capable vehicles in the Army's current modernization efforts. It's important to note that decisions regarding specific platform retirements are made based on holistic assessments of the entire fleet's health, ensuring that the Joint Force retains its combat effectiveness and readiness.

Q: Could you discuss the process of determining whistleblower protections for national security employees, and whether such protections extend to those who expose inappropriate behavior in the military, such as sexual harassment or discrimination?

A: Protecting national security employees, including those in the military, is paramount to ensuring a safe and trusted workforce. The process of determining whistleblower protections involves various factors and considerations to strike an appropriate balance between transparency and national security.

The Whistleblower Protection Act provides broad protections for federal employees, including military personnel, who disclose waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government. These protections apply to disclosures of inappropriate behavior, such as sexual harassment or discrimination, in the workplace. Additionally, the Military Whistleblower Protection Act further safeguards military members who disclose fraud, waste, or abuse, including violations of law, rule, or regulation related to a mission-critical function. These acts are designed to protect those who raise legitimate concerns and ensure accountability within the military chain of command.

Q: Can you provide an update on the F-35 sustainment and the ongoing efforts to reduce sustainment costs?

A: The F-35 is a highly advanced and sophisticated aircraft, and its sustainment is a critical part of ensuring its readiness and effectiveness. The program has made significant progress in reducing sustainment costs, driven by efforts to increase efficiencies, streamline maintenance processes, and leverage data analytics. The goal is to achieve a 60% reduction in sustainment costs by 2020, and the program is on track to meet this target. Various measures, such as optimizing the supply chain, improving maintenance practices, and enhancing repair capabilities, have contributed to this cost reduction. The Department is committed to continuing these efforts to control costs while maintaining the F-35's combat superiority.

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