The supposedly nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) has recently produced a laughable, pathetic “study” which purports to show that even if the defense budget is deeply slashed (although sequestration is not specifically discussed by it – the CRS apparently assumes sequestration won’t proceed), the US military will not be seriously weakened and will not become hollow. Extremely leftist bloggers and pundits, including those at the anti-Israeli “Council for the National Interest” (http://nationalinterest.org), claim that this is evidence that sequestration won’t make the military hollow and that the warnings of us defense conservatives are instead “hollow”.
But it is actually THEIR CLAIMS that are hollow and false, because a large amount of evidence provided both by the DOD and outside organizations, as well as Congressional testimonies (made under oath) by Obama’s own Secretary of Defense and his own Joint Chiefs, testifying unanimously, proves that sequestration of the defense budget WOULD devastate the military and render it hollow.
But firstly, let me point out that the CRS report does not even discuss the scenario of sequestration. It merely considers the first tier budget cuts ordered by Obama and the BCA ($487 bn over a decade). The CRS report doesn’t even discuss what sequestration’s results would be.
Here is what the four Service Chiefs testified last year on the subject when asked SPECIFICALLY what the consequences of sequestration would be.
And here is what Obama’s own Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, has said on the subject:
“It would pose unacceptable risk. Here’s why. There’s physics involved. In this budget, we have decided to off-ramp a certain number of service men and women. And we’ve about maxed out our ability to do that with the proper dignity and respect to the force. So 10 [or] 15,000 forces a year is about as many as you can ask and still have enough influence on how they do that. That’s kind of maxed out right now. It’s pretty clear to me that we’re going to have some challenges with infrastructure and changes to it . . . So if we fix those two variables in sequestration, I can’t . . . ask soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, to leave quicker than they’re going to leave. And I can’t touch infrastructure. Sequestration leaves me three places to go to find the additional money: operations, maintenance, and training. That’s the definition of a hollow force.”
Did you hear that? For General Dempsey, sequestration would not just lead to a hollow force, it would be THE DEFINITION of a hollow force.
During a hearing before the HASC, USMC Commandant General James Amos said that if sequestration went through and personnel spending were excluded from it, “that would be the recipe for a hollow force.” (at ca. 0:37:00 in the video) Those are his words, not mine.
General Dempsey and General Amos are hardly alone in voicing such an opinion. They’ve been joined by all other Joint Chiefs, as well as Service Vice Chiefs.
During another hearing before the HASC, a three-star Marine general testified that cuts to the extent that sequestration would require “would break faith with those Marines [who are defending America]”.
Obama’s own Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, could not have been more outspoken about how dangerous sequestration would be. He says it would be “catastrophic” and akin to “shooting ourselves in the foot”; he calls the sequester “a doomsday mechanism”. His deputy, Ashton Carter, says bluntly: “sequestration is no way to do business”.
And they have good reasons to say that. The sequester, if it were allowed to go through, would force the DOD to cut every budget item equally by a whopping 23%, and its total core budget also by 23%. It would thus wreck the military, because you can’t buy three-fourths of a ship or of a building. Secretary Panetta says that under sequestration, he would have to, inter alia:
- Cancel the F-35 program completely without replacement, and thus betray foreign program partners
- Eliminate the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad completely while cutting the bomber fleet by 2/3 and cancelling the bomber replacement program (thus leading to an elimination of the bomber leg through nonreplacement)
- Delay the SSBN replacement program
- Cancel all except the most basic upgrades for F-15s and F-16s (thus ensuring that they will remain decrepit and unable to defend America) while cutting the fighter fleet by 35%
- Cut the USN’s ship fleet to 230 vessels, the smallest size since 1915 (when independent studies say the USN needs 346 ships to perform its mission)
- Forego the deployment of any missile defense system abroad
- Make deep cuts to existing missile defense programs
- Cut the Army to its smallest size since 1940 (when it was smaller than the Romanian army), deeply below its 9/11 size
- Cancel virtually all Army modernization programs
- Cut the Marines down to just 145,000 personnel
- Cut personnel benefits programs to such depth that it would break faith with them (e.g. massive cuts in DOD health programs)
The HASC has come to similar conclusions and also warns that most of the damage that would be done to defense would be irreversible. For example, if you cancel a shipbuilding program that a shipyard relies on, the shipyard will have to close and be liquidated and will not be there to reopen when you’re finally ready to start buying ships again.
Moreover, first tier BCA-mandated budget cuts plus sequestration ($108.7 bn a year on average) plus zeroing out OCO spending (as a result of the inevitable US withdrawal from Afghanistan, $88.5 bn per year on average) means cutting the military budget by a total 32.11% – much deeper than the cuts made after the Vietnam War (26%) and almost as deep as the cuts that followed the Cold War (34%-35%). Now think about it, Dear Reader: we now know that the post-Vietnam and post-Cold-War defense cuts WRECKED the military. So how can we honest expect this round of defense cuts NOT to gut the military? We can’t. Simple math alone should tell you that, even if you don’t believe Obama’s own SECDEF, Deputy SECDEF, and Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Speaking of whom, there are only three possibilities:
1) That Panetta, Carter, and all of the Joint Chiefs are deliberately lying to scaremonger the Congress and the American people;
2) That Panetta, Carter, and the Joint Chiefs are ignorant guys who don’t know what they’re talking about; or
3) That Panetta, Carter, and the Joint Chiefs are right about sequestration.
I’ll leave it to you, Dear Readers, to judge for yourself which it is.
The truth is that the sequester’s defense cuts, if they go through, WILL be devastating, and that’s because they were DELIBERATELY designed to be. The logic was that, with such a sword of Damocles hanging over both defense (which conservatives care about) and the Medicare program (which liberals care about), the Super Committee would be so scared that they would manage to somehow craft a compromise deal by November 23rd, 2011. Such an assumption would’ve been logical if we were talking about something other than a government organization, or at least anything other than the US Congress. But, as conservative Senate candidate Adam Hasner says, “count on Washington to fail to do its job”. The Congress, as usual, failed to do its job, and thus the sequester was triggered.
Defense was being held hostage, with the sequester threatening to kill it if the Super Committee failed to come up with $1.5 trillion by November 23rd. Well, the Super Committee failed to comply, so now the sequester is going to execute the hostage. Unless it is stopped in time, i.e. by no later than January 6th, 2013.
So the claims of sequestration’s defenders are blatant lies. As proven by empirical data from inside and outside the DOD, and as testified under oath by Panetta, Carter, and all of the Joint Chiefs, sequestration would be devastating.
And to close, I’d like to say I’m amazed by how all of those ignorant hacks who defend sequestration, none of whom is an expert on defense issues and none of whom has ever served with the US military, claims to know better than all Joint Chiefs combined plus the Marine Lieutenant General (LTG Mills).