Sequestration cuts in the U.S. budget are devastating the nation’s armed forces according to high ranking Department of Defense officials. Budget cuts are reducing Defense readiness and already have thrown personnel management and other functions into a state of confusion.
Testifying Friday to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and environment, DOD Comptroller Robert F. Hale stated, “While sequestration and related problems do not affect most military construction projects, they are devastating military readiness.” Hale added, “I just can’t believe what we’re doing to the military right now.”
Regarding the defense budget overall, Hale reported, “We’re requesting $526.6 billion in discretionary budget authority. It’s about the same as our 2013 request but about eight percent higher than we’re executing right now in 2013 under sequestration.”
Beyond 2014, Hale indicated that to carry out the president’s current military plan would require roughly two percent additional spending to keep up with inflation.
“We strongly hope that Congress will pass this plan or another plan that the president will sign, and then repeal sequestration,” Hale said.
In reference to needed maintenance functions, DOD officials indicated in testimony the agency is deferring all but the most critical repairs, deferring routine maintenance and forestalling major purchases—raising risk factors in defense activities and operations by hoping that capital and equipment will hold out longer. Beyond the very short term, systems are believed to begin to fail and costs for repair and replacement will be much higher than normal maintenance.
The DOD’s real property portfolio includes more than 500 thousand facilities with a plant replacement value of more than $800 billion at stake.
Each of the armed services is facing serious compromises to their overall Defense missions. Currently the Army is carefully evaluating spending to make the best use of taxpayer money and keep soldiers the best-equipped in the world. Sequestration is seriously affecting Army modernization programs, however, according to Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips, the principal military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology.
Phillips told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on airland Wednesday, “The resources provided to the Army to conduct on-going operations while modernizing and posturing for the next generation of warfighter capabilities will determine our continued ability to accomplish our mission and meet future commitments.”
Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. James O. Barclay, III, Army G-8, reported over the next three years the Army will continue to deploy and redeploy units, retrograde equipment from theater, reorganize brigade combat teams, maintain the readiness of forces in South Korea, and reestablish global and regional response forces, according to ARNEWS.
“And to do all this,” Barclay said, “we have to do it with substantially less money than we had planned, due to sequestration.”
Budget reductions caused by sequestration, Barclay said, are occurring “much sooner and at a much steeper rate than anticipated.” Consequently, “all acquisition priorities and many equipment modernization programs may face unanticipated schedule or cost impacts in the out-years.”
Phillips emphasized the importance of modernization for boots on the ground, reporting that army modernization efforts focus on equipping squads for tactical overmatch in all situations—and ensuring and improving mobility, lethality and survivability factors.
These testimonies followed a Pentagon announcement on Monday that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will decide soon on the scope of civilian furloughs in response to sequestration spending cuts. Monday’s statement seemed simply to be a reiteration of earlier DOD assurances Hagel would “reach a decision in the near future.”
On May 1, Pentagon press secretary George Little reported Hagel is reviewing the DOD budget and the constraints the department is operating under.
Little said, “We’re in the middle of a $37 billion to $40 billion cut over a six-month period, and we need to look closely at that, but I expect him to make a decision soon.”
Little acknowledged that some military services contend they do not need furloughs to realize their sequestration goals. Military personnel management appears to be in a state of disarray over furlough handling. Civilians working for DOD, the military services and contracting agencies have no idea what to expect.
A criss-cross of advisories, announcements and reversals have characterized official communications and online postings concerning furloughs. All of the major armed services’ online portals are updated daily with advisories and cross-links, but rank and file staff and contractors close to defense operations report significant incidences of furlough announcements followed by cancellations.