Lawmakers have proposed more than $800 billion in defense cuts, but DOD leaders warned of serious consequences to technological and military readiness.
Plans to slash more than $800 billion from Defense Department spending over the next decade could hurt military readiness, including technological readiness, the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps testified July 26 before a House committee.
Lawmakers must maintain readiness as a top priority even as necessary funding reductions are made, the vice chiefs of staff said before the House Armed Services Committee. President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had proposed a plan that included $868 billion in defense cuts over 10 years.
“Our future readiness depends first on maintaining the right balance between our current readiness requirements and the procurement of future platforms and capabilities,” said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, vice chief of naval operations, according to a report from Defense.gov.
Technological advances would also be at risk if the cuts go through, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli . "We must avoid making cuts to key and critical modernization programs," he said. "Doing so may have far-reaching implications on the readiness of the Force given the pace of technology development. "
Greenert and the other vice chiefs testified that their services already are experiencing shortfalls in meeting needs in the field, particularly after 10 years of conflict that have worn down equipment and manpower.
“I will tell you that some of our low-density, high-demand requirements, personnel recovery, [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance]…are right at the ragged edge. And as we continue to be challenged by new tasks around North Africa and other places, we are right at the limit of supporting U.S. Central Command,” said Gen. Philip Breedlove, Air Force vice chief of staff. “The United States continues to confront a dynamic international environment requiring the military to remain strong and agile enough to face a diverse range of threats.”
Chiarelli acknowledged the need to make sacrifices as the country faces unprecedented debt, but said such drastic measures would require a major re-evaluation of military strategy.
“We recognize we cannot expect to operate the way we have over the past decade. We cannot expect the same level of funding and flexibility to continue indefinitely,” Chiarelli said. But with spending cuts upwards of $1 trillion, “you’re reaching an area there that I think would definitely we’d have to look very, very hard at our strategy, what we can and cannot do.”
In a separate Capitol Hill hearing July 26, Gen. Martin Dempsey, currently Army chief of staff and nominee to replace Adm. Mike Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also expressed concern about an $800 billion spending cut for DOD.
“Based on the difficulty of achieving the $400 billion cut [DOD is already working toward], I believe [$800 billion] would be extraordinarily difficult and high-risk,” Dempsey said at his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing. He noted that it’s critical that for DOD to absorb such far-reaching cuts, the reductions must touch all areas of spending, including force structure, equipment procurement, personnel and operations and training.