Chairman Outlines Sequestration’s Dangers
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2013 Sequestration will force a drawdown “more difficult and decidedly different” than any other in the nation’s history, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the House Armed Services Committee today.
Its deep, across-the-board spending cuts, combined with a dangerous and uncertain security environment, aging equipment and rising health care costs, place the nation squarely on the verge of an unprecedented readiness crisis, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said.
In a hearing that lasted nearly four hours, Dempsey, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and the Joint Chiefs of Staff all spoke of the dangers posed to national security by sequestration and the possibility that the continuing resolution now funding the government in lieu of a budget will be extended.
Sequestration was delayed until March 1 by a bill passed in January. If implemented, it would mandate about $500 billion in across-the-board defense spending cuts over 10 years in addition to cuts mandated over that period by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
“We are facing the prolonged specter of sequestration while under a continuing resolution, while we are just beginning to absorb $487 billion worth of cuts from 2011, and while we're still fighting and resourcing a war,” the chairman said.
“There is no foreseeable peace dividend,” Dempsey said.
“In this context, sequestration will upend our defense strategy,” he said. “It will put the nation at greater risk of coercion. And it will require us to break commitments to our men and women in uniform and their families, to our defense industrial base, and to our partners and allies.”
The new defense strategy formed last year could execute and absorb $487 billion in spending cuts over the next decade Dempsey said. “I can't sit here today and guarantee you that if you take another $175 billion that that strategy remains solvent.”
The Defense Department is committed to fulfilling its role in the nation's economic recovery, the chairman said. But, he added, this requires budget certainty, time to implement reductions in a responsible manner and flexibility to transfer and reprogram money.
When parts of the defense budget are deemed untouchable by Congress, Dempsey said, readiness loses. “Everything needs to be on the table,” he said.
Congress must ask itself what it wants of the military, Dempsey said. “If you want it to be doing what it's doing today, then we can't give you another dollar. If you want us to do something less than that, we're all there with you, and we'll figure it out.”
Failure to act to avert sequestration eventually will require the department to reduce its international security commitments, Dempsey said, and to become less proactive about protecting national interests.
“When I testified before this committee last year, I said that if we fail to step up properly on the budget, we will reduce our options, and therefore increase our risk,” he said. “Our military power will be less credible, because it will be less sustainable. Now, we're only a few days away from making that risk a reality.”