Carter Warns of Readiness Crisis, Urges Delay in Cuts
By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2013 Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter urged lawmakers today to find a way to avoid billions of dollars in cuts set to take a deep bite out of Pentagon spending in two weeks, saying the nation will face a crisis in military readiness if they take effect.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Robert F. Hale, the Defense Department's comptroller, testify on the impacts of sequestration before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2013. DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
And if the current budget trend is not corrected over the longer term, Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee, the military will have to revise its entire defense strategy within the decade and “would not be able to rapidly respond to major crises in the world or be globally positioned to deter our adversaries.”
Carter’s testimony came as much of official Washington braces for a March 1 deadline in which massive, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration are set to take effect -- cuts that would remove $46 billion from the Pentagon budget over the remainder of fiscal year 2013, which ends Sept. 30.
The threatened sequester is the outcome of the unresolved dispute between Congress and the White House over how to reduce the nation’s debt. The cuts will kick in unless Congress and the White House can agree on equivalent targeted spending cuts and revenue increases.
Carter told lawmakers the threat of the cuts alone already has taken a toll, and he urged Congress to delay them at the very least.
“The cloud of uncertainty hanging over our nation’s defense affairs is already having lasting and irreversible effects,” he said. And he called the long-term cuts contained in the budget act as “too large, too sustained for us to implement the [defense] strategy that we crafted under the president’s guidance just one year ago.”
Carter, appearing at the hearing along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, representatives of the military branches and the National Guard chief, detailed multiple areas in which the nation’s military readiness and security would be affected. He warned that failure by Congress to approve a defense appropriations bill would render the nation’s military no longer able to “protect much of which is of value to the country.”
The deputy secretary referenced the Defense Department’s pre-emptive decision not to move ahead with the scheduled deployment of at least one aircraft carrier. And if the cuts take effect, he added, troops coming back from Afghanistan will lack adequate maintenance and “won’t be training in the way their profession requires them to.”
Most DOD civilians would be furloughed without pay for a day a week for up to 22 weeks, the Air Force would fly below acceptable readiness standards, the Navy and Marines could see a significant reduction in operations in the Asia-Pacific region, and the Pentagon might not be able to pay all of its TRICARE medical plan bills, Carter told the senators.
“The wolf is at the door,” he warned, adding that “allies, partners, friends and potential foes the world over need to know we have the political will to implement the defense strategy we’ve put forward.”