A new analysis by the House Armed Service Committee paints a bleak picture of the nation’s ability to defend its interests across the globe if automatic spending cuts are triggered by the failure of Congress to enact $1.2 trillion in savings before the end of the year.
The analysis, prepared by the panel’s Republican staff, assumes a “worst case” scenario under which defense spending would be slashed by $1.0 trillion through fiscal year 2021. Deep cuts of that level would be required if the congressional deficit reduction committee does not approve a plan to cut federal spending by at least $1.2 trillion by Nov. 23. In that case, automatic spending reductions of that amount would be split between defense and non-defense programs. Those cuts would come on top of the approximately $400 billion in savings the Pentagon already has been forced to identify under the debt ceiling deal’s initial round of cuts.
The worst case scenario would trim defense spending across the board by 18 percent over the next 10 years. If the president holds spending on military personnel exempt from the automatic cuts, each military department would absorb a 24 percent cut to all remaining programs, according to the analysis.
The consequences include cutting the combined end strength of the Army and Marine Corps by 200,000 troops. Army maneuver battalions would decline from 100 to between 60 and 70, the Navy’s fleet would fall from 288 to 238 ships and Air Force fighter jets would plummet from 1,990 to 1,512.
Such changes would leave the nation’s force structure unable to decisively win an engagement in one theater while defending the country’s interests in another, the committee staff concluded. The panel will use the analysis when it communicates with the deficit reduction committee, but it does not plan to submit specific recommendations for shaving spending, reported CQ Today.
‘Breaking Faith with the Military’
While the most dramatic changes would affect the military’s force structure, impacts on defense communities and military families receive full billing in the analysis as well. Automatic spending cuts would place many military construction projects at risk and likely prompt a new round of base closures, according to the analysis. Budget cuts also would require the closure of shipyards.
Military families potentially would be charged tuition to send their children to DOD schools in the United States and overseas. In addition, the department no longer could give money to on-base schools run by local school districts. The spouse tuition assistance program also would be curtailed.
At least 25 percent of DOD’s civilian workforce would be furloughed, generating the largest impacts in California, Texas and Virginia, according to the analysis.
Commissaries and exchanges would be forced to absorb cuts, with the potential that exchanges offer a reduced level of savings to families or the outlets are eliminated entirely. As a result, support for morale, welfare and recreation programs would drop.
The cumulative impact of trimming spending on military family support programs will be widespread. “There will be a shift away from military involvement in local communities,” the analysis stated.
Read the story in the Boston Globe.