DOD Leaders Understand Pain Caused by Budget Cuts, Hagel Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 17, 2013 Pentagon leaders understand the pain military and civilian workers are going through as the effects of deep spending cuts unfold, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in South Carolina this morning.
Speaking to civilian employees at Joint Base Charleston, Hagel assured them that Defense Department leaders know that furloughs and other sequestration effects are not just numbers, but people.
The secretary promised to work with Congress to end the next round of sequestration spending cuts scheduled to kick in when fiscal year 2014 begins Oct. 1. If sequestration continues into fiscal 2014, the planned defense budget would take a $52 billion cut.
“We are unwinding from the longest war we’ve ever been in,” Hagel said. “And as you do that, not unlike any other time in the history of our country -- World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Cold War -- there are ramifications and consequences to budgets, to capacity, capability, priorities.”
The bottom line is that it is still a dangerous world, the secretary said, and while the challenges have changed, the need to confront them has not.
“Sequestration is a mindless, irresponsible process. You know it; I know it,” Hagel said. “I’m hoping that our leaders in Washington will eventually get that and come to some policy resolution.”
But the secretary said he must plan for it to happen, because it is still the law of the land under the Budget Control Act of 2011. That being the case, he added, his responsibility for the nation’s security includes preparing the department for the cuts.
Hagel reminded the civilian employees he commissioned Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct a strategic choices and management review to provide him with options. “We do know this: regardless of what comes out of 2014, … this institution's going to be living with less,” he said. “If there is an adjustment or a compromise or a change, even to sequestration, it’s still going to mean less.” The dramatic drop in spending under sequestration gives DOD no time to make the responsible adjustments needed, he added.
Hagel said his last choice was to furlough civilian employees, but his hand was forced. “It’s unfair,” he said. “It’s wrong to do this to families, to people who have given their lives to this country. It’s the wrong way to do it.”
He has tried to make the process as fair as possible, he added, and furloughs will result in saving $2 billion for the department.
“I know it doesn’t change anything,” the secretary said. “I know it doesn’t make you feel better. But you needed to know from me, because I made the decision, why I made it and what the realities are, and then anticipation of what’s ahead.”