By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
March 24, 2010 - The stakes in Afghanistan are "too high for failure," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress today as he urged quick passage of funding legislation that supports operations there.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates testified before the House Appropriations Committee in support of the $549 billion fiscal 2011 base budget proposal and funding requests for overseas contingency operations during 2011 and the rest of fiscal 2010.
The latter two requests, for $159 billion and $33 billion, respectively, primarily fund operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
With almost 10,000 additional troops already in Afghanistan and the rest of the 30,000 surge troops to arrive by early fall, Mullen said the proper force will be in place to help in reversing the Taliban's momentum.
"Right now, the Taliban still believe they're winning," he told the committee. "Eighteen months from now, if we've executed our strategy, ... we'll know they aren't, and they will know that they can't."
That turnaround will take discipline, hard work and more cooperation with Pakistan, Mullen said. "And it will most assuredly demand more sacrifice and more bloodshed."
U.S. forces making these sacrifices and taking on these challenges require proper funding to ensure they have what they need to succeed, the chairman added.
"All they want right now is guidance on the mission before them and the tools to accomplish it," he said. "That's why we're asking you to fully fund our fiscal year '10 supplemental and the fiscal year '11 overseas contingency operations request."
The mission in Afghanistan is "no mission of mercy," Mullen reminded the panel. "This is the place from which we were attacked in 2001, the place from which al-Qaida still plots and plans."
Troops carrying out the mission there aren't asking for a lot, he said.
"All they want right now is guidance on the mission before them and the tools to accomplish it," he said. "Without your continued support, we will not be able to show the meaningful progress in Afghanistan that the commander in chief has ordered, the American people expect and the Afghan people so desperately need."
The budget requests support warfighters with more funding to support U.S. Special Operations Command, develop and field a next-generation ground combat vehicle, grow two more Army combat aviation brigades and continue rotary-wing production, Mullen noted.
The requests also provide more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets – an initiative Gates has championed to better support troops on the ground.
"We are asking for more capability in unmanned aircraft and ground-based collection systems," Mullen said, "including nearly $3 billion to double the procurement rate of the MQ-9 Reaper by fiscal year '12."
Gates emphasized in his opening statement that the budget requests provide a critical balance between what the military will need to face future threats, and what today's warfighters need to succeed.
"The commitments made and the programs funded in the [overseas contingency operations] and supplemental request demonstrate the administration's determination to support our troops and commanders in combat, so that they can accomplish their critical missions and come home safely," he said.
"I believe the choices made and priorities set in these budget requests reflect America's commitment to see that our forces have the tools they need to prevail in the wars we are in," the secretary added, "while making the investments necessary to prepare for threats on or beyond the horizon."