WASHINGTON — Defense Department officials today released a report that documents the cuts to military forces, modernization and readiness that will be required if defense budgets are held at sequester-levels in the years beyond fiscal year 2015.
The report fulfills a commitment made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “to provide details on the effects of these undesirable budget cuts,” officials said in a news release announcing the report.
The report says sequester level budgets would result in continued force-level cuts across the military services. The Army would be reduced to 420,000 active duty soldiers, along with 315,000 in the National Guard and 185,000 in the Army Reserve. The Marine Corps would drop to 175,000 active duty personnel. The Air Force would have to eliminate its entire fleet of KC-10 tankers and shrink its inventory of unmanned aerial vehicles. The Navy would be forced to mothball six destroyers and retire an aircraft carrier and its associated air wing, reducing the carrier fleet to 10, the report says.
Modernization also would be significantly slowed, according to the report. Compared to plans under the fiscal 2015 budget, the department would buy eight fewer ships in the years beyond fiscal 2016 — including one fewer Virginia-class submarine and three fewer DDG-51 destroyers – and would delay delivery of the new carrier John F. Kennedy by two years.
The services would acquire 17 fewer joint strike fighters, five fewer KC-46 tankers, and six fewer P-8A aircraft, the report says, adding that many smaller weapons programs and funding for military construction also would see sharp cutbacks.
In addition, the report says, the Defense Department would invest about $66 billion less in procurement and research funding compared with levels planned in the fiscal 2015 budget.
The report notes that sequester-level budgets would worsen already-existing readiness shortfalls across the force and would delay needed training to prepare the joint force for full-spectrum operations.
Overall, the report says, sequester-level cuts would result in a military that is too small to fully meet the requirements of its strategy, thereby significantly increasing national security risks both in the short- and long-term.
“As Secretary Hagel has said, under sequester-level budgets, we would be gambling that our military will not be required to respond to multiple major contingencies at the same time,” officials said in the release announcing the report.