I spent last week on Capitol Hill with our Secretary of Defense. The questions about our defense budget were tough—as they ought to be. The stakes are high. There are no easy answers in cutting $487B from the budget, but we’re not the first generation to face difficult budget challenges. We’ll figure it out. The nation’s counting on us.
Health care costs generated a lot of attention. I welcomed the opportunity to speak about this important part of the budget, to express my concerns about further cuts that could come due to sequestration, and to explain how we intend to keep faith with our armed forces—not just through pay and benefits but by ensuring we remain the best trained, best equipped, and best led military in the world.
In forming this budget, we looked at all cost variables. Many of you will know that pay and benefits account for more than 1/3 of the budget and that health care costs in particular have increased from $19B in 2001 to $48B today. We had to act to slow this growth.
I want those of you who serve and who have served to know that we’ve heard your concerns, in particular your concern about the tiered enrollment fee structure for TRICARE in retirement. You have our commitment that we will continue to review our health care system to make it as responsive, as affordable, and as equitable as possible.
General Martin E. Dempsey Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff