In Munich, Carter Details Sequestration’s 'Reckless' Reality
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
MUNICH, Feb. 2, 2013 Before one of the world’s largest gatherings of foreign and defense ministers, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter took time to detail the grim consequences a second round of severe and potentially imminent budget cuts could have on the Defense Department.
Carter spoke as part of an expert panel that took the stage here late in the afternoon on day two of the Munich Security Conference, also called the Wehrkunde Conference on Security Policy.
Their topic was the future of European defense, and Carter was joined on the panel by Netherlands Defense Minister Jeanine-Antoinette Hennis-Plasschaert, Russian Federation Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov, European Union Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier, NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation Gen. Jean-Paul Paloméros and others.
As the deputy secretary neared the end of his talk, he remarked on what has become nearly a routine occurrence at Munich security conferences -- a U.S. defense secretary urging allies to meet their agreed-on NATO benchmarks for defense spending.
“At this point at Wehrkunde,” Carter said, “it’s traditional for the DOD leader of the U.S. delegation to emphasize, as [former Defense Secretary] Bob Gates did memorably a few years ago, the need for allies to provide the necessary resources for defense.”
“’In the final analysis,’” the deputy secretary quoted Gates as saying, “’there’s no substitute for nations providing resources necessary to have the capability they need when faced with security challenges.’”
This time at Wehrkunde, Carter told the audience, “I have to add my own country to this exhortation because we’re facing the very real prospect of a huge and reckless additional cut in our defense budget.”
The department absorbed a budget cut of $487 billion over 10 years beginning in fiscal year 2012, crafting as a result, and with input from every part of DOD and the services, a defense strategy for the 21st century that President Barack Obama and the Defense Department leadership launched in January 2012.
The looming March 1 threat of another half-trillion dollars slashed from military spending over 10 years will happen unless Congress manages to avoid the “huge and reckless cuts,” he said, that sequestration would generate.
“What’s tragic is that this is not a result of economic emergency or recession,” the deputy secretary said. “It’s not because defense cuts are the answer to the fiscal challenge -- do the math. It’s not in reaction to a change to a more peaceful world. It’s not due to a breakthrough in military technology or a new strategic insight. It’s not because paths of revenue growth and entitlement spending have been explored and exhausted. It’s purely collateral damage from political gridlock.”
In response, as the Defense Department’s chief management officer, Carter said he has directed “that we take some immediate steps … to protect the department as best as it is possible to do in this eventuality.”
One action will be to freeze the hiring of civilians, he said, adding, “And I’ll just remind you that the Department of Defense hires between 1,000 and 2,000 people a week,” 44 percent of them veterans.
He’ll also reduce temporary-term employees and defer maintenance contracts, among many other actions.
Sequestration will affect every function in every state and every district, he said, producing economic inefficiency and needless waste.
“The result over time, in fact very quickly, would be a readiness crisis. And the effect over a longer period of time would be to threaten the [new defense] strategy itself,” Carter said.
On the European side of the Atlantic, he added, “I know that, in myriad ways that are different for every country, something similar is happening -- a political dynamic that threatens spending.”
That’s why, in his Wehrkunde address today, Carter spoke to Europeans and Americans, he said, “about the level of investment they’re willing to make to protect our great countries and the great unity and values represented by our countries.”