Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta revealed that the proposed military pay raise for 2014 is 1 percent, and that the department is proceeding in a logical, careful way to do its part to cut the deficit and preserve military capabilities.
Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke at the Pentagon during a reporters roundtable about what the 2014 budget proposal would look like and what the threat of budget uncertainty – including the looming threat of sequester – would mean to it.
In a normal year, defense officials would be discussing the fiscal 2014 DOD budget request now. But this year is far from normal, and officials do not expect the budget to even go to Congress until late in March.
The budget the secretary outlined includes the $487 billion in cuts that were proposed in 2011. The budget also is based on the defense strategy unveiled in January 2012. It ìreally does set a framework for what the force of the 21st century should look like, Panetta said.
Whatís most important is the budget proposal would ìprotect the strongest military on Earth, he said.
The fiscal year 2014 budget proposal also requests a military pay raise of 1 percent.
No one is getting a pay cut, but we will provide a pay raise thatís smaller than weíve seen in past years in order to achieve some savings by virtue of what we confront in the compensation area,î Panetta said.
The DOD will ask for money for new investment in transition assistance, sexual assault prevention, suicide prevention, and family programs to boost support for the all-volunteer force.
The department needs to get personnel costs under control, Panetta said. These accounts have grown 80 percent since 2003, and if steps are not taken now it would force the department to cut military end strength and sacrifice readiness.
Congress has approved a DOD request for a commission to look at military retirement, the secretary said.
ìWe will stress that retirement benefits would be grandfathered,î Panetta said, noting the department will continue to look for savings in the militaryís TRICARE health program.
The secretary stressed that the budget would find savings in overhead and efficiencies.
ìWe have identified $30 billion in new initiatives over the next five years to eliminate overhead and duplication,î he said. The department will consolidate capabilities and look to new technologies for more savings.
In the budget, the secretary proposes another round of base closures and realignments. ìWe will have to because Ö you canít have a huge infrastructure supporting a reduced force,î he said.
The budget continues the glide path for reductions in land, naval and air forces detailed last year. Ultimately, the Army will go down to 490,000 active duty soldiers and the Marine Corps to 182,000 troops.
The department will propose some additional cuts to the Air Force and ìwe will resubmit some of our proposed cuts to the Navy,î Panetta said. These are proposals that Congress rejected last year.
The department will continue to push for growth in special operations capability and cyber warfare experts.
The department must continue to modernize the force and the budget continues the push for tactical fighters, aerial refueling capabilities, ballistic-missile subs and bombers, Panetta said. New capabilities include sea-based unmanned aerial vehicles, cyber tools and space systems.
This is the bare bones of the fiscal year 2014 budget, but it would all go out the window if sequestration occurs on March 1.
DOD is taking steps to confront sequestration because at the spend rate weíre on now if we continue it will be that much more of a blow,î Panetta said. The department has ordered hiring freezes, cutting back on maintenance and in other areas.
And, budget uncertainty – including a continuing resolution and the looming potential for across-the-board sequestration cuts – has caused DOD to delay the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg to the U.S. Central Command area of operations.
If sequester happens, DOD is looking at furloughs for as many as 800,000 civilian employees. This would mean a 20-percent pay cut.
ìItís a lousy, lousy way to treat people frankly,î the secretary said.
Sequestration cuts Army training, Air Force and Navy flight hours, and shrinks ship operations.
These are real consequences and our fear is that it really is going to cause a readiness crisis for the military to respond to the crises that we still have to confront in the world, Panetta said.