Steeper cuts in defense spending would jeopardize the military’s capacity to respond to crises and undercut the nation’s influence around the world, the top military officers from the four services told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday.
“It would require us to completely revamp our national security strategy and reassess our ability to shape the global environment in order to protect the United States,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said.
“With sequestration, my assessment is that the nation would incur an unacceptable level of strategic and operational risk,” he added, according to the American Forces Press Service.
Odierno’s warning came as the congressional debt supercommittee has only three weeks left to reach an agreement to trim $1.2 trillion in government-wide spending over the coming decade. If the panel fails to strike a deal — or if Congress fails to approve it — automatic spending cuts of that amount would be triggered, with half coming from the defense budget. The debt ceiling law enacted in August already requires DOD to cut $450 billion over the next 10 years.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told the Armed Services Committee that “some of the actions we would need to take under sequestration could have a severe and irreversible impact on the Navy’s future. For instance, we may need to end procurement programs and begin laying off civilian personnel in fiscal year 2012 to ensure we are within control levels for January of 2012.”
Further cuts in the Pentagon’s budget could threaten the ability of the Marine Corps to support one major contingency, said Commandant Gen. James Amos.
The strategic review needed to assess the military’s capabilities and missions would be completed by the end of the year, said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. Separately, Army Secretary John McHugh said the review may not be fully released until the department submits its FY 2013 budget request in February.
At the Pentagon, DOD Press Secretary George Little starkly described the impact of budget sequestration: “The reality is that we’ve done the analysis, and we would face the smallest Army and Marine Corps in decades … the smallest Air Force in the history of the service … [and] the smallest Navy since the Woodrow Wilson administration if sequestration were to happen.”
To read the testimony of the military service chiefs, visit the committee’s website.