* Carter says budget caps will force bad management
* Hearing follows Hagel's review of budget cut options
* Analysts welcome findings but say Pentagon can go further
By David Alexander
WASHINGTON, Aug 1 A day after the Pentagon
outlined the stark choices it confronts due to looming budget
cuts in coming years, top defense officials pressed Congress to
give them the time and flexibility to make the reductions
without undermining security.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned lawmakers on
Thursday that the Pentagon could not hit its budget targets
under the law in the next few years without "drastic measures
that are not strategically or managerially sound," like
grounding aircraft or putting employees on unpaid leave as was
done this year.
"It takes time to downsize forces, to cut employees, to
close bases, to reap savings from reforms. These strategic
adjustments take time," Carter told a committee in the House of
Representatives. "Flexibility and time is essential."
Carter's remarks came at a hearing of the Armed Services
Committee as the Pentagon struggles to implement $500 billion in
across-the-board budget cuts under a mechanism known as
sequestration, on top of $487 billion in spending reductions
already under way.
Carter briefed the panel on the results of Defense Secretary
Chuck Hagel's four-month Strategic Choices and Management
Review, which laid out options for addressing the various levels
of budget cuts over the next decade in the face of uncertainty
about how much the department will be forced to trim.
The cuts are required by the Budget Control Act of 2011,
which ordered the initial cut in defense spending over a decade
and added the sequestration cuts unless Congress and the White
House could reach a deal on an alternative. Despite initial
expectations of an accord, no agreement has been reached.
Defense analysts have welcomed the findings of the review,
which were released on Wednesday, saying they showed the
Pentagon had finally recognized the need to adapt to the new
budget climate and begun plan for a drawdown after years of
denial. But they also said the department needed to go further.
'LONG WAY TO GO'
"For the first time DoD (Department of Defense) seems to be
kind of ponying up to the fact that sequestration is now the
base plan," said Jim Thomas, a vice president at the Center for
Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank. "You'd better be
planning for sequestration."
"The (review) was a start and it's taking some steps I think
in the right direction, but it still has a long way to go," he
told a briefing for reporters.
Hagel's review called for $40 billion in cuts over the next
decade to be taken from the overhead for defense agencies and
military headquarters. It also called for further cuts to the
Army and Air Force.
The review warned that full implementation of the $500
billion in sequestration cuts over a decade would force the
Pentagon to choose between force size and high-end weapons
systems - capacity versus capability.
That could result in a much smaller military with advanced
weapons systems and capabilities like the radar-evading Joint
Strike Fighter, or a larger force with fewer advanced weapons
and little devoted to developing new capabilities, it found.
But analysts said the Pentagon had failed to fully examine
the need to take cuts in other areas, like military readiness
and the department's growing civilian work force.
Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst at the American
Enterprise Institute think tank, said the Army, Navy, Air Force
and Marine Corps had cut uniformed personnel over the past
decade or were in the process of doing so, while the Pentagon's
civilian work force had grown over the past four years.
"I was obviously very disappointed in the lack of any
serious detail or substantive thinking or rational plan for
drawing down the civilian work force," she told a briefing.
"It's just a remarkable disparity," Eaglen said. "DoD is
targeting one work force over another. There's a real problem
Analysts said the department also had pledged to protect
military training and readiness, but would ultimately have to
accept cuts there as well.
"You're going to end up making a readiness cut no matter
what," said Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at CSBA. "Your
choice is how intelligently do you do that."