Defending Defense, a group made up of the Foreign Policy Initiative, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation, just published “Sequester’s Shadow on the Defense Industrial Base,” a joint paper that examines how the looming threat of even deeper defense cuts is already starting to effect the defense industrial base’s readiness and responsiveness to international military-technological competition, and argues for the need for a responsible fix sooner rather than later. From the joint paper’s introduction:
Unless the President and Congress change current law, the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces soon will face an indiscriminate, across-the-board cut of more than $500 billion over the next decade. Known as “sequestration,” this massive reduction in defense spending comes in addition to the $487 billion in long-term military cuts already proposed by President Obama this year.
Civilian and military leaders have repeatedly warned of the dangers of these deep defense cuts. In a November 2011 letter, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta cautioned lawmakers that sequestration cuts will be “devastating” to national defense, yielding “[t]he smallest ground forces since 1940,” “a fleet of fewer than 230 ships, the smallest level since 1915,” and “[t]he smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force.” Moreover, General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, bluntly told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2012, “I am prepared to say that sequestration would pose unacceptable risk” to national security.
Although the multi-year process of sequestration does not technically begin until January 2, 2013, it is already casting a dark shadow on the future readiness and responsiveness of America’s defense industrial base. As Robert J. Stevens, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin, warned: “The sequestration process has occurred independent of any correlation with strategy, force structure, technology needs or operational reality.... The impact on industry would be devastating, with a significant disruption of ongoing programs and initiatives, facility closures and substantial additional personnel reductions that would severely impact advanced manufacturing operations, erode engineering expertise, and accelerate the loss of skills and knowledge, directly undermining a key provision of our new national security strategy, which is to preserve the industrial base, not dismantle it.”
Once such effects take hold, they will not be easy or inexpensive to reverse. What’s worse, they could have dire implications not just for the defense industrial base’s future readiness and responsiveness to the competitive and ever-changing international threat environment, but also for the U.S. military’s future combat capabilities in unforeseen crises. To help safeguard the country’s long-term national security, the White House and Capitol Hill therefore should act quickly to responsibly reverse sequestration…