- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Pentagon needs an annual growth rate of three to five percent and no repeat of automatic budget cuts in order to implement the National Defense Strategy and compete effectively with the People’s Republic of China in the coming years, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Thursday while answering questions during a virtual town hall meeting with service members.

Mr. Esper said there was bipartisan agreement that the 2013 sequestration was harmful to the military.

“It took years and is still taking us time to dig out of,” he said.

He also recognized that the U.S. has paid trillions of dollars to address the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, which has put additional fiscal pressure to the country. But, you shouldn’t pay for that on the back of the Pentagon, Mr. Esper said.

“Economic security and national security go hand-in-hand,” he said. “We need to make sure we continue those investments in our defense budget to make sure the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and the Marine Corps or whatever doesn’t face budget shortfalls that leaves us in a bind.”

It does mean the Pentagon has a responsibility to be “better stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars,” Mr. Esper said.

“We have a responsibility … to reform and to free up money and manpower to do the right things,” he said.

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