The potential impact of sequestration, if it happens, could significantly degrade the Defense Department’s overall readiness for years to come, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs said in Manama, Bahrain, Dec. 13.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey was responding to a sailor’s question on the possible effects of the massive budget cuts that could take effect in January, while speaking to an audience from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. Fifth Fleet.
Sequestration is a mechanism built into the Budget Control Act which would trigger across-the-board cuts in federal spending – including an additional $500 billion cut in defense – if Congress and the president cannot agree on a plan to reduce the federal deficit before Jan. 2, 2013.
“It’ll be a significant degradation,” Dempsey said. “How does it translate to you? Stretched out maintenance periods, less flying hours before deployment, less training, potentially some interruptions of PCS movements or schools.”
The Defense Department has spread the word that allowing sequestration to occur would be “a really bad idea,” Dempsey said.
“It will have an effect, and I think it’ll be an effect felt for two or three years,” the general said. “There are some who think we can just let it happen, and then sweep it up over the next six months.”
The chairman explained how he and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta requested military manpower be exempt from the additional proposed budget reductions.
“We went to [President Obama] and asked him to use his authority to exempt manpower,” Dempsey said. “If we hadn’t done that, in an almost inconceivable way, we would have had to cut the endstrength by 8 percent as part of the package.”
The president approved the exemption, he said, but the “bad news is it puts a bigger burden on the other accounts,” which include operations, maintenance, training and infrastructure.
“So those will now be impacted at about a 10 percent blow across the board,” Dempsey said. “What does this mean to your particular community? I can’t say for sure because the CNO – chief of naval operations – is the one who has to figure that out.”
However, operations won’t be impacted by sequestration if it occurs, the chairman said.
“So now I just told you we’ve exempted two places. Now when I say operations, I mean deployed operations,” he said.
The Joint Strike Fighter is among defense projects that would be disrupted by sequestration, Dempsey said, adding that
civilian DOD employees would likely also feel the impact.
“There could be some civilian employees placed on unpaid furloughs,” the chairman said. “So it’s really serious.”