Modest Changes - “Extraordinarily difficult and very high risk"

Jul 28, 2011
Defense Drumbeat
“It’s so big [the defense budget] that you can make relatively modest changes to defense that end up giving you a lot of headroom to fund things like basic research or student loans or things like that.”    - President Obama,
July 6, 2011

“We are the only Army in the world, where if [a soldier] is asking for something, anything, he knows he’s going to get it. And that is a level of trust we have with the soldiers of the United States Army. We just need to make sure, that whatever we do, we never take away his ability and his belief that if in combat, he asks for it, he’s going to get it.”

-- General Peter Chiarelli- Vice Chief Of Staff, United States Army

According General Martin Dempsey, President Obama’s nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it would be "extraordinarily difficult and very high risk" to cut $800 billion from defense spending as is proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as part of efforts to reduce the national debt.

General Dempsey accurately points out that "national security didn't cause the debt crisis nor will it solve it.” Despite this fact, Senate Democrats and the President continue to insist on cutting defense to pay for deficit reduction anywhere from $400 billion to over $800 billion.

Service Chiefs Wary of Deep Cuts

This sentiment was underscored by four senior military officers at a Readiness Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday where all four leaders told the subcommittee that they are “currently unable to meet all the needs of the military’s regional combatant commanders,” according to the Hill. The Vice Chiefs and the Assistant Commandant all stated on the record that they could not withstand additional, significant defense cuts without fundamentally altering force structure and strategy.

They offered a chilling, but realistic view of their current readiness status and what might happen to U.S. national security strategy should cuts be enacted on this level.

United States Marine Corps, Assistant Commandant General Joseph Dunford:

Marines and their gear at their home stations were in a ‘degraded readiness state,’ thanks to their decade of war, meaning they’d be late to ‘respond to unexpected crises.’

“Dunford, told a House subcommittee that he had enough Marines to service the needs of CENTCOM (Central Command) but not the other commands. In other words, the Marines are stretched thin, a point that McKeon says applies to the entire military,” according to Fox News.

“The Marines would face challenges in absorbing its share of a $400 billion cut. If cuts go beyond that, ‘we would have to start making some fundamental changes in the nature of the Marine Corps,’ Dunford said.

United States Navy, Vice Chief Admiral Jonathan Greenert:

“Greenert said the Navy needs more ships to meet demands of combatant commanders worldwide.”

"The stress on the force is real," Greenert said. "and it has been relentless."

United States Air Force, Vice Chief General Philip Breedlove:

“Air Force Vice Chief Gen. Phillip Breedlove said defense cuts larger than $400 billion would force a ‘fundamental’ change in how the service meets its part of the military’s mission, and force it to reduce ‘capacity,’ meaning equipment.”

“Some portions of the Air Force, he said, ‘are right at the ragged edge.’

United States Army, Vice Chief General Peter Chiarelli:

“The Army is also stretched too thin, Chiarelli warned,” and noted that the Army is still  hasn’t met goals for dwell time at home for American troops.

Chiarelli, also said “bigger reductions would require his service do a ‘major reassessment’ of how it carries out its missions.”

According to the Vice Chiefs and the Assistant Commandant, the logical conclusion is that drastic defense cuts will require a new national security approach.

The question is – will we force our military to do more with less? The President has not made the distinction between cuts and military strategy, instead proposing defense cuts while expanding the military’s mission (Libya, Japan, Haiti, fighting pirates off the coast of Africa) and expecting our troops to maintain their current duties.

If enacted, defense cuts discussed by the President and Senator Reid mean that our Armed Services will have to do a “major reassessment” of how they carry out their missions, as the Vice Chiefs and the Assistant Commandant acknowledged.The President should be frank with American people about the condition of our military and recognize the potentially disastrous consequences of his proposed cuts.

Media Coverage:

Vice chiefs bemoan readiness in bid to save budgets -- DoD Buzz

POLITICO Morning Defense -- Politico

Military brass warns against deep cuts -- Daily Press,0,7907019.story

Top Brass Unloads on Austerity Plan -- Wired

 Joint Chiefs chairman nominee warns against $800 billion in Defense cuts -- The Hill

Budget Cuts Will Further Damage U.S. Combat Readiness, Senior Officers Say -- CQ

 General Dempsey warns against deep defense cuts -- Reuters

DoD Brass Warn of Impact of More Than $400 Billion In Security Cuts -- Defense Daily (Subscription Required)

Forbes: 'I Worry About Our State of [Military] Readiness' -- Weekly Standard

Right at the Ragged Edge -- Air Force Magazine

 Panetta Reviewing Air-Sea Battle Plan Summary, Greenert Says -- Bloomberg

House Armed Services Chairman Opposes Major Defense Cuts -- FoxNews


112th Congress