The further we go down this sequestration road the more clearly we begin to see the reality of mandated military spending reductions. In a worst case scenario outlined today by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the Army could shrink to 380,000 troops and the Marines Corps to 150,000. The Navy would lose three carriers, and the Air Force would begin mothballing its B-52 bomber fleet.
Tighten Your Belts
In sobering news for current service members, veterans, and family members, increased Tricare fees, reductions in housing allowances, pay raise cuts, and fewer commissary subsidies are about to become the norm. Hagel warned of these eventualities unless Congress and the White House can agree to lift the sequestration deficit-reduction mandate that is projected to take $500 billion in defense budgets over the next 10 years. Click here if you haven’t read the White House’s response to specifics about sequestration.
The military has conducted a painful review designed on “maximizing the military’s combat power by looking to reduce every other category of spending first,” according to Hagel. To that end, the review led by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter sought to make a “basic tradeoff” between the military’s “capacity and capability,” Hagel said.
Hagel is not the only voice of warning when it comes to sounding the trumpet over how the military is being affected and will be affected in the coming years. Hagel and others in Washington are increasing the rhetoric in an effort to call attention to what they feel are spending cuts that are too severe.
For more than a year, as the Iraq war ended and Afghanistan was winding down, Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, has been warning that sequester might force him to cut troop strength below the cut from 570,00 soldiers to 490,000, which was already underway. Citing this latest review Hagel said that the number of soldiers in the Army could fall as low as 380,000, but a senior Pentagon official said later that the troop strength would more likely fall in the range of about 450,00.
The Marine Corps, which now has slightly more than 200,000 troops, had been projected to come down to about 182,000, but the defense leaders outlining the review said the number could be as low as 150,000
Hagel said the number of aircraft carriers in the Navy might have to drop from the current 11 to eight, and he also said that the Air Force would have to retire older bombers and slash the number of tactical squadrons.
Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the review was shortsighted, but “what it does make clear is what I’ve been cautioning all along — further cuts will cause catastrophic readiness shortfalls. We will lose our workforce and ability to recruit and retain the all volunteer force and our influence around the world will diminish,” McKeon said in a statement.
The hardest part of watching the sequestration scythe cut through the military is the randomness and devastation of its stroke. Sequestration really makes no attempt to qualify anything; it simply sets quantification limits and lets everything lie as it falls.
Defense Secretary Hagel again pled with congress to act. “It is the responsibility of our nation’s leadership to work together to replace the mindless and irresponsible policy of sequestration,” Hagel said.
“It is unworthy of the service and sacrifice of our nation’s men and women in uniform and their families,” Hagel said. “Even as we confront tough fiscal realities, our decisions must always be worthy of the sacrifices we ask America’s sons and daughters to make for our country.”