Cuts to reduce military training by half, top brass warns Congress
In a letter to House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) this week, seven active-duty four-star generals from across the service branches urge members of Congress to act immediately to stop sequestration cuts to the defense budget, and the fiscal uncertainty that is almost as bad. The letter-signers included Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Adm. James Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps; Gen. Raymond Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army; Gen. Mark Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the Air Force; Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations; and Gen. Frank Grass, Chief of the Army National Guard Bureau.
Led by Dempsey, the seven service chiefs wrote that a convergence of budget crises has left the military “on the brink of creating a hollow force.”
The prospect of seeing $500 billion sliced from planned spending over the next decade through sequestration was worsened by legislation requiring the service branches to retain more troops than they had requested in the wake of a drawdown, the generals wrote in the letter, obtained by Human Events.
“We ask for legislative action that adequately resources readiness while granting the department the authority and flexibility to shape the force to new budget realities,” they wrote.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has been vocal about the evils of sequestration at every opportunity, said recently that Congress’s failure to pass defense appropriations legislation this year could worsen the effects of the sequester by forcing the Pentagon to operate on a continuing resolution that would be tantamount to further cuts.
Earlier this month: Panetta painted a dire scenario of cuts to maintenance, troop training, and employee furloughs if the scheduled reductions aren’t stopped. The generals’ letter only added more grim detail.
“Should this looming readiness crisis be left unaddressed, we will have to ground aircraft, return ships to port, and stop driving combat vehicles in training. Training will be reduced by almost half of what we were planning just three months ago,” they wrote. “We are also now training for the potential to furlough up to nearly 800,000 defense civilians who are essential to critical functions like maintenance, intelligence, logistics, contracting, and health care.”
Sequestration will not be triggered until March 1, but the generals asked that Congress take action right away to devise a plan that exempts the defense department from the planned cutbacks.
In a response released by the House Armed Services Committee, McKeon thanked the service chiefs for their letter, but warned that any option that stops sequestration will need the cooperation of President Barack Obama to succeed.
“While it is important that my colleagues in the House understand these dire consequences, I hope a copy of the letter was also sent to the Oval Office,” he said. “…While senior commanders’ cries for help are heeded and taken seriously on the Hill, the Commander-in-Chief continues to fail in his primary duty. He has yet to propose a solution to the crisis, and he refuses to step off the podium and sit down at the negotiating table.”