President Obama is cutting future defense spending. It is both a conscious choice to divert funds elsewhere, away from the military, and a consequence of last year’s congressional budget agreement, which alone will likely result in an automatic sequestration of at least $500 billion from future military budgets. Regardless, the decision has serious consequences.
In a report today released by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), former brass from all five U.S. military branches detail what these cuts might mean.
“It will be difficult for the Army to perform the missions indicated if some of the numbers that are being bantered about to achieve the $500 billion reduction become fact,” retired Army Gen. Louis Wagner writes. “If sequestration for another $500 billion becomes a reality, it will be devastating for the Army and the national security of the country.”
Wagner warns: “Instability in the Middle East, the Arab Spring activities, the Iranian nuclear weapons threat, the threat of a nuclear capable North Korea, and instability of our neighbors in Central and South America are all strong indicators that the world is not going to be peaceful in the foreseeable future. Ground forces are very likely to again be involved in a large-scale irregular war or even a conventional conflict. The capability to execute robust full spectrum land operations remains absolutely essential if the United States is to remain a preeminent world power.”
“We will be forced to accept greater risk as a nation,” Major General Sid Shachnow (retired) says. Shachnow goes on to—optimistically—note that this might be fine “[s]ince we have no peer competitors.” But concedes he is not able to determine what this might mean for “achieving victory” in the future.
The primary criticism from the former Air Force brass is the way the cuts are being made—without consideration to mission, only to the bottom-line of the budget.
“The budget for our national defense programs should be based on the amount of resources required to achieve national security objectives established through the usual processes,” writes Major General Robert D. Eaglet (retired), formerly of the Air Force. “Our national security is too important to constrain it to whatever might be achievable within some arbitrary reduced budget target.”
Lieutenant General Charles May (retired), also formerly of the Air Force, shares a similar criticism: “We all understand that strategy should come first but it is obvious that budget changes are being made first and some public pronouncements are being made to justify these changes. But coherence is lacking, preventing a thorough and in-depth analysis of the impact.”
And the Navy, too, will face severe consequences. Navy Rear Admiral Terence E. McKnight notes the shrinking save of the Navy and writes, “With the reductions in ships and manpower the Navy will be stretched to the limits and major mission areas and overseas commitments will have to be eliminated.”
McKnight writes: “The Navy will not have the forces to protect the high seas as in years past. . . . The Navy will no longer be able project power in such regions as the Caribbean, Mediterranean, or possibly the Middle East. . . . No matter what doctrine is implemented in the future, there will simply not be enough ships to cover the current commitments.”
Even the Coast Guard threatens to be severely constrained by these cuts. “The extent of possible reductions in Coast Guard funding remains undetermined, but would nevertheless seriously impact a traditionally underfunded agency in many areas, causing significant reductions in services to the public,” Rear Admiral James Olson (retired) warns.
The Marines, if Major General Larry S. Taylor (retired) is any indication, are most concerned about “shortages of spare parts for maintenance and ammunition for training.”
Read the whole report here.