In Washington, D.C., members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday and delivered stern warnings about the impact budget cuts known as sequestration are having on the military. Geoff Bennett was there and has more.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The military's service chiefs were specific and explicit in explaining how the across the board federal spending cuts, known as sequestration, will affect national security. They emphasized the same point: That the cuts have consequences, which will undermine the Army’s readiness.
“We have also learned from previous draw downs that the full burden of an unprepared and hollow force will fall directly on the shoulders of our men and women in uniform. We have experienced this too many times in our nation's history to repeat this egregious error again," said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.
“To prepare for 2014, sequestration is going to further reduce our readiness. The impacts of sequestration will be realized in two main categories: Operations and maintenance and our investments,” said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations.
Delay Air Force weapon system purchases.
“It will impact every one of our programs. These disruptions will, over time, cost more money to rectify contract breaches, raise unit costs and delay delivery of critical equipment," said Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh.
And make the Marines to operate at a minimum level.
“In my 43 year career as a United States Marine, I have seen the effects of strategic miscalculations resulting from declining resources and budget driven strategies that resulted in wholesale force cuts. Following the Gulf War, we saw firsthand how deep cuts in our military produced unintended consequences and increased risk to our nation,” said General James Amos, Marine Corps Commandant.
With sequestration in place, the Defense Department is set to lose $500 billion over the next ten years. By the numbers, that means the active duty Army will shrink to 490,000 troops from a wartime high of 570,000 troops. The Army National Guard will reduce from 358,000 to 353,000 and the Army Reserve will stay at its current size of 205,000.
Complicating matters, Congress is currently debating a short term spending bill that continues sequestration. The Army says that would present a worst case scenario.
Odierno said, “My biggest fear, the thing that keeps me up at night, is that I am asked to deploy soldiers on some unknown contingency and they are not ready. So we are going to have to severely tier our readiness to say, ‘I’m going to have seven brigades trained' and if we have to go more than that, we now have a significant problem."