In response to Senate requests, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel detailed a bleak future if sequestration is not resolved by the end of the fiscal year. In a letter to Senate leadership, Hagel said that if sequestration continues into the 2014 fiscal year, “the size, readiness and technological superiority of our military will be reduced, placing at much greater risk the country’s ability to meet our current national security commitments.”
The DoD will be forced to cut another $52 billion from the budget on top of the initial $87 billion the department is coping with now if Congress does not make any changes. While the initial cuts did leave some flexibility in accounts where additional spending reductions can be made, if the 2014 cuts are allowed to happen, they will be too much for that flexibility to handle.
So, while civilian employees are unhappy with the furloughs currently in place, it is possible many of them may soon lose their jobs, according to Hagel.
He spoke about the furloughs at the 15th National Training Seminar of the Military Child Education Coalition on July 9. The first week of July marked the beginning of the mandatory 11 unpaid days off, one per week until the end of the fiscal year.
“This was a very, very difficult decision, one that was not made lightly,” Hagel said in his remarks. “The last thing I wanted to do was furlough anyone.”
He said he reluctantly approved the furloughs because military readiness had already been compromised:
“Planes aren’t flying, ships aren’t sailing and soldiers aren’t training. You don’t always see or hear about some of these changes, but they are happening. Because I could not cut any more into our readiness, in the end I had no choice but to make a tough decision on furloughs.”
Personnel funding for the military is also at risk of taking additional hits which would essentially put a stop to promotions, permanent-change-of-station moves, and bonuses. It could also mean that those who are approaching retirement could be asked to leave the military early.
DoD Will ‘Muscle Through’
In a July 8 release, DoD Press Secretary George Little said during the furlough period the DoD will concentrate on its core mission of defending US interests.
About 85 percent of the DoD’s civilian workforce has been furloughed through the end of the fiscal year, a move that will save an estimated $1.8 billion. Little said that what happens in the next year will depend on whether or not the government can move past sequestration.
In speaking about sequestration he said it “was an unfortunate mechanism designed to avoid unfortunate consequences. We’re seeing some of those consequences already in regards to military training and readiness.”
“It’s unfortunate we’re in this period, but we’re going to muscle through it the best we can,” he added.
From the Services
According to Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, sequestration amounts to “hollowing out the force.” He agreed with the situation expressed in Secretary Hagel’s letter to the Senate and said Hagel “did reach out, as always” to the various service commanders to assess the potential impact on readiness that sequestration could have in the coming year.
Additionally, Locklear agreed that the key to avoiding even deeper cuts to both the civilian and military force is “the money … [and] the way that the money is being managed.” Currently ships and planes aren’t being maintained and troops aren’t training and outfitting as a result of sequestration.
While he believes that forces can be reduced, Locklear said it has to be handled properly in order to ensure a high quality outcome and “sequestration is not allowing that to happen.”
“We are America’s insurance policy,” said Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos.
In a speech given on the outlook of maritime forces, Amos highlighted some of the challenges the nation’s military is currently facing.
Amos told the audience that after the extended conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fact that 70 percent of the equipment currently used in Afghanistan saw about six years of service in Iraq before being redeployed, the military needed to upgrade. However, that isn’t going to happen with sequestration being the law of the land.
“You can’t use the same gear over and over and over again; there has to be a degree of modernization,” said Amos. “I think there’s zero peace dividend coming out of Afghanistan.”
During the speech, Amos said that U.S. has several treaties with many countries and that cutbacks are putting the strategies used in those countries at risk. In addressing how the military would meet its commitments he said, “Do we do that by virtual presence? I’ll tell you that virtual presence is actual absence.”
On July 8, speaking at the 15th National Training Seminar of the Military Child Education Coalition, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, and his wife, Deanie, said that while no decision has been made yet to cut programs for military children, they were likely.
He also made clear his dislike of sequestration:
“I think we can make a case that full sequestration would be a bad idea for the nation, not just for the military. The entire enterprise is under scrutiny in order to find a way to provide the nation with that which it needs in terms of security at reduced levels of resources.”
In a video posted on his Facebook page, Dempsey said he found the furloughs created by sequester “discouraging and disappointing.” He also said that delayed effects of sequestration are starting to be seen in readiness, but added that while sequestration was illogical, it was the law and the DoD had no choice, but to deal with the challenges head on.
On July 10, Dempsey called on the DoD leadership to do what they could to mitigate the effects of sequestration.