Budget cuts have left U.S. forces unbalanced, less prepared: general

WASHINGTON Thu Jul 18, 2013 4:04pm EDT

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey talks to U.S. military personnel stationed at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo April 25, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey talks to U.S. military personnel stationed at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo April 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Yuya Shino

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer said on Thursday that steep, across-the-board budget cuts have left American armed forces out of balance and less prepared to meet new security threats, a problem that can only worsen with new reductions on the horizon.

Army General Martin Dempsey, speaking to a Senate panel considering his nomination to a new two-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said one of his key jobs was to ensure U.S. forces are ready and balanced to address any challenge, but "so far we are getting it wrong."

"We are already out of balance due to the magnitude and mechanism - not to mention the steep descent - of budget cuts," Dempsey told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He urged them to help relieve the department's budget uncertainty.

Dempsey's remarks came as the Pentagon is facing nearly $1 trillion in cuts to projected spending over the next decade, including $37 billion in across-the-board reductions that were imposed earlier this year as the department was already months into its fiscal year.

The cuts, for which the Pentagon had not initially planned in its fiscal 2014 budget, have forced the department to cancel or delay ship deployments, ground air wings and cancel or postpone training. Some 680,000 civilian defense employees began taking 11 days of unpaid leave last week.

Dempsey told lawmakers that if the across-the-board cuts, which are known as sequestration, continue as required by law at a pace of $52 billion a year for the next decade, it would continue to erode military preparedness.

"We will not be able to find the money we need to achieve the level of sequestration cuts without a dramatic impact in our readiness," Dempsey told lawmakers.

He said reductions in the size of the military force eventually would help lower costs and enable the services to improve their readiness. But at that point "you're dealing with a smaller force ... I think too small."

Dempsey's remarks came a day after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel returned from a three-day visit to military bases across the southeast, where he delivered the sobering news that he expects the Pentagon to face another $52 billion in across-the-board cuts next year.

Hagel said reductions of that magnitude will inevitably force the Pentagon to begin eliminating jobs. He also announced that he and top military leaders would cut spending 20 percent on the offices of the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the headquarters of the military combatant commanders.

The Pentagon said those reductions, which would take place between 2015 and 2019, would save $1.5 billion to $2 billion annually.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 directed the Pentagon to cut $487 billion in spending over a decade. The act ordered another $500 billion in defense cuts over a decade unless Congress and the White House could agree on a compromise package of alternatives.

So far no deal has been reached, and the cuts, known as sequestration, went into effect in March for the first time.

(Reporting by David Alexander; editing by Jackie Frank)

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Comments (9)
fiddlerlaw wrote:
I keep hearing about military hardware that the military doesn’t want but that members of congress manage to fund in order to keep them being re-elected. Of course this could be “liberal” propaganda, but if true, perhaps these programs could be cut first, so that the programs that our military leaders deem important for security are maintained.

Jul 18, 2013 4:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
QuidProQuo wrote:
Not going to slam our military they are the biggest, baddest, and most powerful in the world. That being said, all I care about is defense of our motherland. And I assume at this point, we are protected and have a decent missile defense shield in place. I think the military has gotten too big to handle. Way too big. And I think it’s time for congress to put some stricter oversight on the Pentagon’s financial affairs. High time they learn to comply with GAO standards of accounting methods and clean up their financial dissaray. Really, it’s okay if America takes a break from being the biggest and most powerful military in the world. We can do fine being great without bragging rights. Like i said, all that matters to me is my country is protected from invasion and tyranny of outsiders. Not much to ask.
Guard our waters, our lands, our air. If money is tight for the Pentagon, well perhaps it’s time our military starts charging and collecting reasonable fees from other nations for all our tactical and logistical training. What, do we just give out our military assets for free? I would think not and there are contracts in place to receive fees for our services, but I guess only the Pentagon can tell me that for sure. General Dempsey, could you answer that question for me? You can just respond here with your answer.

Jul 18, 2013 4:44pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
React wrote:
Still, by far, the most prepared military in the world.

Jul 18, 2013 5:26pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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