Brigadier General John Adams (Ret.) recently argued that we don’t go into war with the army we have, “we really go to war with the army we decided to have 30 years ago.” This idea is especially relevant today, considering the effects that sequestration will have on the U.S. Armed Forces in the future.
At a recent House Armed Services Committee Hearing, Pentagon Comptroller Robert F. Hale and other military officials discussed the Office of Management and Budget Sequestration Report. They made clear that if sequestration is enacted on January 2, 2013, the military will be forced into a dangerously decreased state of readiness. Excluding military personnel, sequestration will cut defense across the board by 9.4 percent. These cuts will be made indiscriminately and without attention to strategy, affecting everything from weapons modernization to research and development, procurement, maintenance, and overseas contingency operations.
Each of the men testifying at the hearing echoed the same sentiment, that support of forward-deployed troops would remain their top priority. However, as Hale explained, to reduce the cuts to wartime operating budgets (which are subject to the 9.4 percent cut under sequestration), “that will mean greater cuts in the base budget portion, especially of the operation and maintenance accounts…and that will result in reductions in training.” Admiral Mark Ferguson said that “nondeployed forces will see a disproportionate share of reductions under sequestration.”
Cutting the budget for training will have a direct effect on America’s servicemen and women. Troops who are not adequately trained can be faced with dire consequences when in combat. Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA)of the House Armed Services Committee warned, “When you say that we will be cutting back on training, that can cost lives and that to me is over the top. We’ve gone way too far.” In addition, training cuts will erode military readiness and have a formidable impact on the ability of the United States to adequately respond to future contingencies and conflicts.
We do not know when or where our Armed Forces will be engaged next. However, we do know that “recent history tells us to expect the unexpected. The last four U.S. presidents…have each sent America’s military into harm’s way for wars that were not anticipated.” Right now, the United States is facing a destabilized Middle East, China’s growing military forces, and an Iran on the brink of gaining nuclear weapons—all while our service members are still engaged in Afghanistan. Now is not the time to reduce flight hours for our Air Force pilots, steaming days for our sailors, or training for any of our service members—it is dangerous and irresponsible. As General Joseph F. Dunford, U.S. Marine Corps, stated at the HASC hearing, “We have a readiness challenge today. It’ll be exacerbated.”
Providing the correct amount of training to successfully complete a mission is imperative to troop safety and morale, as well as military readiness as a whole. It is the government’s job to make sure our troops are prepared and able to get the job done. Congress must work to stop sequestration before it goes into effect on January 2. As Comptroller Hale stated, “If you’re driving into a brick wall at 60 miles an hour, let’s find a way to avoid the wall, not figure out a way to pick up the pieces after we hit it.”
Bianca Falcone is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.