House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) today echoed the concerns of those who fear President Obama has shown a willingness to break the military through repeated cuts and a low prioritization in saving operational and maintenance funds over pet domestic programs.
“The cuts he continues to insist on, while below the level of sequestration, are still severe enough to hollow out our force. This approach forces me to conclude that the president, for all his stump speeches and props, wants the sequester to happen,” McKeon wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed. “The president is forcing America to indulge him in this dangerous experiment with national security.”
That experiment, as military leaders have told committee after committee in hearings leading up to Friday’s sequestration, would scar military readiness to a point where this superpower may not be able to bounce back.
Training will be skipped. Flight hours will be cut. Even Special Forces are not immune from the hit.
Obama has ordered military pay to be excluded from the cuts, even as roughly 750,000 civilian employees — political appointees and foreign nationals excluded — face furloughs that amount to a 20 percent pay cut. That cuts into the support staff for military operations.
And a recurring theme under the surface of the daunting figures thrown out by the chiefs of staff lately is fear for the very future of America’s all-volunteer military force.
If the military continues to be gutted under Obama, fewer men and women are expected to walk through the doors of recruiting offices. If there aren’t enough men and women in uniform come the next conflict, will this administration or the next — which will be left to mop up the damage at the Pentagon — be forced to institute the draft?
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this month, Marine Corps Commandant James Amos warned that sequestration “invalidates the careful planning of the services to manage a predictable resource decline, replacing it instead with a dramatic resourcing cliff that guarantees inefficiency, waste in its accommodation.”
“The effects of sequestration, over the long term, will threaten the foundations of the all-volunteer force, putting the nation’s security on a vector that is potentially ruinous,” Amos said. “It dramatically shapes perceptions of our government, as both an employer and as a customer, reducing confidence throughout institutions.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno predicted cuts “will impact our units’ basic warfighting skills and induce shortfalls across critical specialties, including aviation, intelligence, engineering, and even our ability to recruit soldiers into our Army.”
The Pentagon was hit by $487 billion in cuts and a continuing resolution that tied its hands in directing funding to needed operations before the $500 billion sequestration tab was added on.
“We must be mindful of the corrosive effect of this uncertainty on the morale of our people and be vigilant regarding the potential effects of sequestration on the propensity of our force to stay with us and of new recruits to join,” said Adm. Mark Ferguson, vice chief of Naval Operations.
Leaders reiterated these warnings to the House Armed Services panel the next day.