Leading Defense Subcommittee Hearing, Tester Calls for Commonsense Debt Ceiling Resolution to Ensure Military Funding

Senator: “If we continue down this line, I’m very concerned about funding for the military, funding for Homeland Security, funding for every agency”;

Tester also pressed for updates on recent fatal helicopter collisions, Army recruitment numbers, and TRICARE challenges

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, led a hearing today questioning Army officials on whether the President’s 2024 Budget proposal provides all of the tools needed to defend our national security.

During his opening statement, Tester called for Congress to reach a commonsense resolution on the debt ceiling in order to make sure our military and defense agencies are fully funded. 

“We heard yesterday that the moment in time we default on our debt is coming up in one month, June 1st. I talked about getting a budget out on time. I do not know what the people in the House are thinking. The truth is the deficit needs to be dealt with in a common sense way. What the House has done last week is not a common sense way. It makes us a weaker country. And if we continue down this line, I’m very concerned about funding for the military, funding for Homeland Security, funding for every agency that we have within the government. And so hopefully, hopefully, common sense will prevail here and we will be able to continue on the path of getting a defense budget by the end of September, so that you guys have the certainties not to waste a lot of taxpayer dollars, and the Military Industrial Base has the certainty to know what we need and are able to deliver it on time.”

Tester also pressed Army officials for an update on recent fatal helicopter collisions in Alaska, Kentucky, and Alabama.

“Last week…three soldiers who were tragically killed when their helicopters collided during a training mission in Alaska. And as I also pointed out, this is on the heels of another fatal helicopter accident in Kentucky that cost nine lives. February 2nd, two soldiers lost their lives in a helicopter accident also in a training mission, this time in Alabama. General McConville, you issued a stand down order to the Army Aviation units last week and directed additional safety training. Would you please give us an update on what you will be reviewing specifically?

Finally, Tester raised concerns with the TRICARE network—the DoD program administered by DHA that delivers health care services for active duty servicemembers, Guard and Reserve members, military retirees, and their family members. 

“You have a new personnel system. It inexplicably kicked off soldiers off of TRICARE. It is apparently not ready to provide accurate strength numbers. This is not a good thing… You get soldiers that are booted off of TRICARE because of a glitch in the damn program. That’s a problem. How are you able to track needs without solid data?”

As Chair of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Tester is committed to securing a budget that will ensure the Department of Defense has the tools it needs to protect our freedoms. 

Last week, in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester questioned Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough on budget proposals in Washington to gut VA health care and services for veterans and their families—including toxic-exposed veterans receiving critical support under the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act.