By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2013 – Tonight, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a bipartisan budget agreement that would ease some of the sequester-caused fiscal pressure on the Department of Defense.
The agreement replaces a portion of the across-the-board U.S. government budget spending cuts known as sequestration with a balanced deficit reduction plan, President Barack Obama said in a written statement on the budget issued Dec. 10.
The budget agreement means the American people should not have to endure the pain of another government shutdown for the next two years, the president said.
The agreement gives DOD needed leeway to address budget cuts in the department, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today during a Pentagon news conference with Singapore’s Defense Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen.
“This agreement does not solve all of DOD’s budget problems, but it helps us address our readiness, especially in 2014, with putting more money back into training in particular, and procurement,” Hagel said. “It also gives us some new certainty and predictability for our planning, for our budgeting over the next two years, which is particularly important.”
DOD leaders have been alarmed for months about the impact that sequestration’s deep, steep cuts would have on the military.
“I’m pleased that Congress has been willing to work in a bipartisan manner to limit its worst impacts,” the secretary said.
Passage of the budget will send an important message to friends and allies around the globe, Hagel said.
“We are going to come together as a country, as a Congress, and make some tough choices and decisions and commit resources where we have to commit them,” the secretary said. “And it gives, I hope, some assurance to our allies and friends like Singapore that we’re going to do this.”
This is a message, Hagel said, that leaders in the Middle East and Southeast Asia particularly needed to hear.
The budget agreement is a good first step, Hagel said. There are tough decisions ahead, the secretary said, to ensure the right balance in military capacity, capabilities and readiness.
“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,” Hagel said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)
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