WASHINGTON, March 17, 2015 —
The service secretaries and chiefs warned Congress today of the dire effects a return to sequestration would have on security at home and around the world.
During a hearing on the president's fiscal year 2016 defense budget request, Army Secretary John M. McHugh told members of the House Armed Services Committee that the department needs "results, not rhetoric."
The Army faces a "dark and dangerous future unless the Congress acts now to end these ill-conceived and inflexible budget cuts," he said.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus sounded a similar alarm, noting that the president's request is the minimum required to balance current readiness while rebuilding the fleet.
"Our people … cannot do their jobs without platforms," he said. "Providing presence, being where we're needed when we're needed, requires those platforms."
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said she was shocked when she took her present job to learn that the Air Force is now smaller than it has ever been and is operating its oldest-ever fleet.
"More than half of our combat air forces are not sufficiently ready today for a high-end fight -- meaning a fight where the enemy has the capacity to shoot back at you, to shoot you down, to interfere with you through integrated air defenses and the like," she said.
Consequences to the Nation
Each official said implementation of sequestration is a danger to national security, particularly given the dangerous and complicated times.
"A budgetary trajectory that results in sequestration ... is going to place American lives at greater risk, both at home and abroad," James said.
If the president's requested budget is not approved, the result for the services would be unpreparedness, an inability to react to contingencies and increased stress on the force, Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the Army chief of staff, told the committee.
"Our ability to respond to the nation's needs would be greatly diminished. It would be devastating," Adm. Michelle J. Howard, the vice chief of naval operations, added.
In many areas, even if the full amount that the president requested were authorized, the services would only be resetting themselves to the level they were at 10 years ago, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Marine Corps chief of staff, said.
"Fundamentally, we really are building capabilities that are more applicable to yesterday than tomorrow right now as a result of the budgetary constraints," he said.
"If we don't invest in readiness today, we risk losing the fight today,” Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, told the committee. “If we don't invest in readiness and capability for the future, we risk losing the fight 10 to 20 years from now."
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)