BigNews.Biz - May 12,2012 - Service Vice Chiefs to Ayotte: Address Defense Sequestration Before December
Assistant Commandant says sequestration would leave Marine Corps unable to conduct "a single major contingency operation"
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Continuing her call for Congress to prevent automatic, across-the-board defense sequestration cuts scheduled to take effect in January, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) questioned the Army and Air Force Vice Chiefs of Staff, as well as the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, about the need to address defense sequestration now rather than waiting until the end of the year. All four witnesses agreed that a solution to avoid defense sequestration is needed before December.
"I'm worried that there's a general feeling around here that we can kick this can until December," said Senator Ayotte. "If we wait until December, what are the disadvantages and consequences of doing that, as opposed to resolving this issue much sooner, particularly for each of our service branches? I think this timing issue is very important for people around here to understand."
Testifying at today's hearing were Gen. Lloyd Austin III, Army vice chief of staff; Admiral Mark Ferguson III, vice chief of Naval operations; Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., assistant commandant of the Marine Corps; and Gen. Philip Breedlove, Air Force vice chief of staff. The following are excerpts of their responses:
GENERAL AUSTIN: "If this does come to pass, it would be devastating....From an Army perspective, again we've not done any planning on this, but the back of the envelope calculations are such that, this would mean a loss of probably another 100,000 troops - 50 percent of those in the Guard and Reserve. And with those kinds of impacts that would probably drive us to go back and re-look at our planning efforts there."
ADMIRAL FERGUSON: "If you look at sequestration, the impact on the Navy from the $600 billion defense reduction, would be about $15 billion a year- that's the amount of the entire ship construction account that we would have to figure out how to spread in our budget and reduce. Waiting until December, and then not having a resolution at that point, would allow a very short cycle for planning, it will not allow us to make efficient or effective choices, it would also cause us to go back and look at the strategy. Because the force that comes out of sequestration is not the force that can support the current strategy that we're operating under."
GENERAL DUNFORD: "We have a tendency to view sequestration as a budget issue, but it's really not a budget issue. It's a re-ordering of our national priorities - it's what we won't be able to do. And certainly at the strategic level, I think what the Secretary has said is, we won't be able to implement the strategy as currently written if sequestration goes into effect. From a Marine Corps perspective, we're at 182,000 right now, we're at the margin of being able to meet the strategy...we