Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called for “significant change across every aspect of our defense enterprise.” While sequestration drives Secretary Hagel’s remarks, “significant change” is only code for declining readiness and lost capabilities.
“We must make sure that contingency scenarios drive force structure decisions and not the other way around,” Hagel stated. This is not possible without hollowing the force due to the scale of cuts—almost $1 trillion by fiscal year 2021. These cuts are in addition to the almost half-trillion-dollar defense cuts that the Obama Administration took before sequestration became the law of the land.
The Administration portrayed these cuts as “efficiencies” while underfunding force modernization and failing to address the Pentagon’s out-of-control manpower costs. It is impossible for the services to adjust to the rapid reductions mandated by sequestration without undermining U.S. military capabilities. This is a dangerous trend, because the world is not getting any safer. The U.S. military performs missions that are critical to the well-being of U.S. citizens and assure U.S. allies while minimizing risks to its deployed soldiers.
Defense is only 20 percent of the government’s spending, but it bears more than 40 percent of the sequestration cuts. The Pentagon needs a serious reform agenda. The Heritage Foundation has proposed steps that the Secretary of Defense and Congress should take to create a better, more resource-efficient Department of Defense. But the resources the Pentagon can save from these reforms should be reinvested to “provide for the common defense,” one of the primary responsibilities of the federal government.