Services: Sequestration Will Affect Force Readiness
By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 19, 2013 The four branches of the military delivered another warning to Congress yesterday that a prolonged budget sequester will significantly affect military readiness, and in the case of the Army, will leave it unable to carry out defense strategy.
The service vice chiefs emphasized that message repeatedly during a Senate Armed Services Committee’s readiness subcommittee hearing on the state of military readiness in light of the $41 billion spending cut the Defense Department is absorbing over the rest of the fiscal year, triggered by the budget sequester that took effect in March.
“The reality is that if sequestration continues as it is, … the Army simply will not have the resources to support the current defense strategic guidance, and we risk becoming a hollow force,” Gen. John F. Campbell, Army vice chief of staff, testified.
The Army is the largest of the four branches, and is affected the most by the budget sequester -- curtailing training for most ground forces and cancelling exercises to cope with a $6 billion shortfall in its operations and maintenance account. This will risk the service’s ability to reset itself after 12 years of war, Campbell said.
“We cannot afford, from a national security perspective, an Army that is unable to deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” he added.
Adm. Mark E. Ferguson III, vice chief of naval operations, said the Navy is feeling the shortfall in everything from the ability maintain readiness to the capability to respond to a world crisis.
“By the end of this fiscal year, two-thirds of our nondeployed ships and aviation squadrons will be less than fully capable and not certified for major combat operations,” he said, adding that deployments have been delayed or cancelled and that in some cases, ship tours have been prolonged.
If sequester cuts set to take effect in fiscal year 2014 are not reversed, he said, the Navy would be prevented from meeting combatant commanders’ requirements.
Gen. John M. Paxton Jr., assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, warned the senators that the effects of the budget sequester will be “serious, prolonged and difficult to quickly reverse or repair,” calling the impact on training and readiness an issue that keeps him awake at night.
“There’s a lot of unease and unrest and potential danger elsewhere around the world that you expect your soldiers, your sailors, your airmen, your Marines to be ready for,” he said. “I worry less about a hollow force than I do about particularly broken units you won’t see until it’s in the rear view mirror.”
Gen. Larry O. Spencer, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff, told lawmakers sequestration has forced the cancellation of flying hours, the stand-down of nine fighter squadrons and three bomber squadrons -- all of which is dealing a direct blow to readiness.
“Allowing the Air Force to slip to a lower state of readiness … will negate the essential strategic advantage of air power and put the joint forces at increased risk,” he said.
Echoing a view the other service representatives expressed, Campbell said if the prolonged budget uncertainty continues, a point may come when the nation’s leaders are unable to ask any more of the military.
“The problem we have is we never say no,” he said. “And at some point, we’re going to have to tell you, ‘We can’t do that. We can’t continue to do more with less, or else we’re going to put [service members’] lives at risk.”