Tight budget may force Pentagon to cut forces: general

RAMSTEIN AIR FORCE BASE, Germany Sat Feb 9, 2013 9:50am EST

U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifies on the Defense Department's response on the attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington February 7, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifies on the Defense Department's response on the attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington February 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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RAMSTEIN AIR FORCE BASE, Germany (Reuters) - The Pentagon will have to cut the size of U.S. military forces for the second time in as many years if across-the-board spending reductions of $470 billion over 10 years take effect March 1, the top U.S. military officer said on Saturday.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said about a third of the cuts would have to come from forces, with the remaining two-thirds taken from spending on modernization, compensation and readiness.

He noted that the Army had begun to shrink last year toward 490,000 from a high of 570,000, a result of efforts to trim $487 billion over 10 years as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The Budget Control Act also envisioned the additional across-the-board cuts under a process known as sequestration. If those cuts go into effect, "the Army will have to come down again," Dempsey said.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Afghanistan, Dempsey said two recent high-profile examples of belt-tightening were attempts by the Pentagon to adapt to the current challenging budget climate and had nothing to do with sequestration.

The Pentagon said last week it would seek a smaller-than-expected pay increase of 1 percent for military personnel in the 2014 fiscal year budget. Pay increases have generally been pegged to an employment cost index and had been expected to rise 1.7 percent.

"That action is being taken to help us absorb the $487 billion in the Budget Control Act. It has nothing to do with sequestration," Dempsey said.

A defense official said the lower pay increase would save the department about $470 million during the 2014 fiscal year. The savings would amount to $3 billion over five years because future increases would be based on the lower 2014 raise.

Dempsey said the decision this week to delay deployment of the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East was to adjust to funding for the 2013 fiscal year.

Congress has not appropriated funds for the Pentagon for 2013. Instead, it passed a continuing resolution that temporarily extends Pentagon funding until late March at 2012 levels.

"The continuing resolution under which we're operating has more money in the investment account and less money in operations and maintenance and we don't have transfer authority to move it," Dempsey said. "So our operations and maintenance is deteriorating because of the misalignment of funding in the continuing resolution."

Dempsey is due to testify on the impact of sequestration at a hearing next week before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"What we've got to make clear to the Congress next week (is) that it's not just about sequestration. We're trying to absorb the $487 billion Budget Control Act, we're trying to absorb the challenges that were imposed on us by the continuing resolution and we're anticipating absorbing sequestration," Dempsey said.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (44)
Adam_Smith wrote:
For defense cuts to make sense they need to be coupled with a less interventionist foreign policy. We must learn to make better use of “soft power”.

Feb 09, 2013 10:05am EST  --  Report as abuse
go2goal wrote:
Whatever we do….let’s hope the idiots in Congress don’t ever-ever think about cutting the expensive and unneeded military systems and hardware…..like the $ 60 B they want to waste on building more Abrams tanks which the Army itself says they don’t need.

Whatever we do….let’s hope the idiots in Congress don’t ever-ever cut the unnecessary and obsolete naval ships……billion dollar sitting ducks to shoulder fired missiles ($ 10 K weapon). The idiots in the Senate like Suzie Collins from Maine who know nothing about military strategy and today’s needs. Collins…..the perfect example of Senators how waste billions of dollars in tax payer money….in the military area where she is both ignorant and naive.

Feb 09, 2013 10:07am EST  --  Report as abuse
byrontx wrote:
The brass keeps trying to deflect revenue cuts to personnel instead of weapons programs. Cutting wasteful weapons programs might close the revolving door they have with military contractors.

Feb 09, 2013 10:12am EST  --  Report as abuse
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