On the first press conference after his nomination US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and his deputy Ashton B. Carter said yesterday the first step in sequestration measures is being implemented. Initially, training of soldier, Marines, Navy and Air Force pilots flying hours and navy steaming days are curtailed. In response to questions Hagel softened the official tone, referring to the dramatic cuts as ‘adjustments’, “We will manage these issues.
These are adjustments” Hagel said, “Over the past two months, DOD has begun to see the effects and consequences of that uncertainty… We anticipated these kinds of realities. And we will do what we need to do to assure the capabilities of our forces.” Hagel said, “For these reasons, the department’s senior leadership and I will continue to work with the administration and Congress to help resolve this uncertainty. Specifically, we need a balanced deficit reduction plan that leads to an end to sequestration. And we need Congress to pass appropriations bills for DOD and all federal agencies” he added.
These actions are required under mandatory cuts of $47 billion in defense spending before Sept. 30, 2013. While the cuts represent only about 10 percent of $487 billion in defense cuts earmarked by the Pentagon in 2012, added to reductions of $300 billion as part of efficiency initiatives announced two years ago, anticipating the Iraq and Afghanistan drawdowns. However, according to Ashton Carter, the sequestration is a different matter. “It is arbitrary. It is abrupt. And on top of sequestration, we have a continuing resolution in force which creates its own set of problems, I won’t go into, but in some categories are just as serious.”
Hagel also referred to the serious consequences of the current arbitrary measures “Uncertainty puts at risk our ability to effectively fulfill all of our missions. Leadership in the Pentagon, all of us, have two serious concerns: first, the abrupt and arbitrary cuts imposed by sequester; and second, the lack of budget management flexibility that we now face under the current continuing resolution.”
Impact on Personnel
While manpower costs are exempt from the cuts, DOD civilians, contractor workforce and employees of defense industries will suffer the full impact of the current measures. Through March 2013 DOD will issue preliminary notifications to thousands of civilian employees who will be furloughed. The department has about 800,000 civilian employees and the vast majority of them face losing 20 percent of their pay through the end of September. “I know that these budget cuts will cause pain, particularly among our civilian workforce and their families. I’m also concerned, as we all are, about the impact on readiness that these cuts will have across our force.” Hagel said.
As sequester continues, we will be forced to assume more risk, with steps that will progressively have far-reaching effects.” Hagel continued. He said the Navy will began to prepare standing down four fighter wings, the first wing will stand down in April.
“Effective immediately, Air Force flying hours will be cut back.” Hagel added, saying this will have a major impact on training and readiness. The Army will curtail training for all units except those deploying to Afghanistan, adversely impacting nearly 80 percent of Army operational units. Other measures already implemented under previous cuts included delaying deployment of naval assets; imposing civilian hiring freezes; beginning to lay off temporary and term employees; sharply cutting back facilities maintenance; and beginning reviews to delay contracts. While the services have some flexibility in deciding what programs to support, they are using that flexibility to protect operations in Afghanistan.
Impact on Air Force Readiness
According to Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter the cuts will not be imposed proportionally over all units as certain elements, such as the nuclear-capable Air Force and tactical units supporting operations in Afghanistan will be protected. “That means that the cuts caused by sequestration, also the continuing resolution, will fall more heavily on other parts of the combat Air Force. They’ll need to cease training, which means they won’t be ready for other conflicts, which is a serious impact.” Carter explained.
According to Carter, the impact on Air Force and Navy pilot training will be immediate and will be felt for years to come. “If you stop training for a while and you’re a combat pilot, then you’d lose your rating and eventually can’t fly at all… This impacts the readiness of the other units, declining the air force’s capability to respond to contingencies” Carter warned, and added “we are trying to minimize that in every way we possibly can”.
Cuts are implemented across all procurement programs, said Carter, “Sequester affects each of 2,500 individual investment programs individually. And so we’re working with our industry partners on each of those.” He added he expects the services will reduce the number of weapons systems purchased in a given category.
10 Most Affected States
All states will be affected, but these 10 states will bear the largest brunt. Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter has sent letters alerting governors of sequestration’s impact on military bases their states, and both the direct and indirect impacts of sequestration. The ten states most affected are: California, Virginia, Texas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Alabama, and Washington. For example, roughly 26,000 Defense Department civilian employees work or reside in Pennsylvania, and they will take home $155 million less over the rest of fiscal 2013. In Virginia, maintenance on 11 Navy ships at Norfolk Naval Base is cancelled, with a associated loss of civilian contractor jobs. In California, sequestration will affect Beale, Edwards, Vandenberg and Travis air force bases. In Maryland, the cuts will impact the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, Andrews Air Force Base and Patuxent Naval Air Station. In Texas, operations at bases around the state will be affected and operations at Red River Army Depot could lose $1.4 billion.