DOD Official: Cuts, Lack of Budget Form ‘Nightmare Scenario’
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2013 Major across-the-board defense spending cuts set to kick in March 1 and the possibility of the government operating under a continuing resolution instead of a budget for the rest of the year pose a “nightmare scenario” for the Defense Department, a senior Pentagon official said in New York this week.
Frank Kendall, deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told participants in the Cowen Aerospace and Defense Conference, that the cuts -- mandated by a “sequestration” mechanism in budget law that will take effect unless Congress intervenes -- translate to $50 billion over the rest of fiscal year 2013.
“There are a couple of problems in here,” Kendall said. “One is, obviously, the size of the cut. … Another problem is the way the cut has to be taken -- it's basically each budget account. Each line item has to take about a 9 percent or 10 percent hit.”
The continuing resolution, Kendall added, is another aspect of the department’s problem.
“If we end up under a year-long continuing resolution, we have serious problems there as well,” he said. “The total number that we're using is based on [fiscal 2012], which actually is a little bit better number than our [fiscal 2013] request. The problem is where the money is.”
Officials expected readiness accounts to go up, Kendall explained, but they cannot go up under sequestration.
“There’s a big shortfall in readiness,” he noted. “The services, particularly the Army and the Marine Corps, are very disturbed about this. A large fraction of the units that are in the cycle to go Afghanistan will not be ready when the time comes.”
The cuts will hit close to home, he added, and those defending the nation away from home.
“It’s people not flying. It’s ships not steaming. It’s maintenance not being done. … It’s units not being trained to go to war,” Kendall said. “I think it’s utterly unconscionable to put our people who are so dedicated out there into that kind of position.”
Still, Kendall maintained, Defense Department officials will do everything possible to protect units that are deploying sooner and to sustain current operations. Officials also are trying to protect personnel accounts, he said.
“We are protecting military people -- they’re not going to have a cut,” Kendall said. “But our civilians are essentially all going to take a 20 percent pay cut for the last half year, give or take” if nothing changes.
Kendall noted that the post-Cold War drawdown occurred under much different circumstances.
“We took a huge amount of force structure out. We took a lot of money out of our other accounts. But … that was a hugely different world [and] national security environment that we were living in,” he said. “And there was a good reason to take the force structure down.
“We're not in that situation today,” he continued. “We are getting out of Afghanistan, so we'll be bringing the ground forces down, in particular, because of that. But the rest of the situations in the world that we deal with have not changed.
The undersecretary noted that massive cuts loom for the Defense Department amid a national security environment that includes al-Qaida’s activity in Africa, unrest in Syria, the unpredictability of Iran and North Korea, and the modernization of the Chinese and Russian militaries.
The undersecretary said that as part of the need for deficit reduction, Pentagon officials developed a new strategy that would accommodate spending reductions of about $50 billion for 10 years.
“That would have to be done again under sequestration if sequestration were actually implemented for the full 10 years,” he added.