The debt ceiling deal passed this summer contains a sequestration “trigger.” If the Super Committee fails to agree on a plan to meet its deficit reduction targets–or if Congress fails to approve the plan, the legislation stipulates that huge amounts of discretionary spending funds will be automatically sequestered–i.e., taken off the table.
That would mean axing roughly $1 trillion in defense spending–a prospect that (quite rightly) freaks out Washington’s defense establishment. What makes this possibility so frightening is what’s already happened to the U.S. military budget. Defense cuts made over the last three years under President Obama, totaled over their lifetime, already approach the neighborhood of $1 trillion.
With the defense cuts underway right now, the military could easily go hollow–even without the “doomsday” scenario of sequestration.
This week, the majority staff of the House Armed Services Committee released a report outlining the severe and immediate impact of the “worst case” defense cuts. Those who say massive additional defense cuts will do no real damage to our security have never offered evidence to back their claim. The committee report, however, attempts to quantify and qualify the impact of ongoing and additional cuts on long-held national capabilities, force structure, endstrength and force posture.
The report describes, factually, the current condition of America’s military and its inability to absorb any more budget cuts. It documents a widening strategy-resource disconnect–a huge shortfall in the assets and investment needed for the military to meet its worldwide responsibilities.
Here, from the report, are some examples of the degradations in strength we can expect–even without further cuts:
The point is that, even without sequestration, our armed forces will be increasingly hard-pressed to accomplish critical missions–humanitarian as well as military–with the severely diminished resources at their disposal. For example, to meet current requirements, the Marine Corps needs 38 amphibious ships. It has only 29 now, and current spending plans will drop this inventory to roughly 23. Full replacement of Army and Marine equipment worn out in Iraq and Afghanistan will probably be deferred indefinitely. And full-spectrum training, already a casualty of lower-than-expected defense budgets the last three years, will continue to languish under current funding levels.
As for the longer term, the technological advantage of America’s future force has already been compromised. Advanced equipment projects killed, delayed or modified over the past three years include:
- F-22 fifth-generation tactical fighter
- C-17 cargo aircraft
- VH-71 helicopter
- Combat search and rescue helicopter
- DDG-1000 destroyer program
- Next-generation cruiser
- MPF-A large-deck aviation ship and its mobile landing platform
- Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle
- Future Combat Systems (networked combat vehicles)
- Next-generation rotary wing aircraft
- Multiple Kill Vehicle program
- Airborne Laser aircraft
- Kinetic Energy Interceptor program
- Space test bed for missile defense
- European “Third Site” missile defenses (radar and interceptors)
- Military satellite constellations
- U.S. ground-based midcourse interceptors from 44 to 30
- Extended production of the next aircraft carrier from four years to five
Washington must face up to the damage it has already inflicted upon U.S. military power and the devastating consequences of pursuing even deeper defense cuts. Professions of caring for our men and women in uniform ring hollow when uttered by those who would hollow our forces to spend the “savings” elsewhere.