National Press Club

At Newsmaker DOD Says Politics Threaten US Security

May 7, 2013 | By Monica Coleman | mcoleman@insidecapitolhill.net

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton B. Carter discusses budget difficulties within the Department of Defense at a National Press Club Newsmaker, May 7, 2013.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton B. Carter discusses budget difficulties within the Department of Defense at a National Press Club Newsmaker, May 7, 2013.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

“In a normal budgetary environment, an efficiencies- and strategy-driven approach to defense ... would be sufficient, but this budgetary environment is anything but normal,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter at a National Press Club Newsmaker event on Tuesday. “What is tragic in all this, this damage to readiness and national security, is that it is not a result of economic emergency or recession in this country ... it’s purely a collateral damage of political gridlock,” he emphasized as he spoke about problems from the sequestration.

Dr. Carter said the Army is canceling six combat training sessions for brigade combat. Except for deployed units, approximately two-thirds of active army brigade combat teams, and most reserves, will be unprepared by the end of the year. Soldiers’ lack of readiness may interfere with providing replacement units in Afghanistan next year, he said.

Likewise, Carter mentioned that the Air Force is grounding 12 combat squadrons. Unable to practice flying leaves approximately one-third of attack squadrons significantly less prepared. Other training programs have also been suspended. Cuts are dangerous, expensive and time-consuming, as pilots will require retraining, he explained.

Terminated Navy and Marine Corps flights and fleet operations also may raise safety and readiness issues. A similar problem may occur as a result of the Navy-imposed flying restrictions on some non-deployed carrier air wings. Navy cut backs on maintenance and support provide fewer opportunities for Marines to train, Carter added.

Civilian support employees may be furloughed.

Lost training isn’t the only problem putting soldiers at risk. Dr. Carter indicated that sequestration procedural requirements resulted in operations and maintenance (O&M) cuts of approximately $20 billion of the $37 billion of defense budget cuts, or 54 percent. It raises safety and readiness concerns regarding military equipment and operation support.

DOD is requesting that Congress approve reprogramming quickly to replace O&M funding with money from other areas. Carter clarified that sequestration limitations preclude having sufficient funds to address other areas.

DOD developed a comprehensive strategic plan, maximizing military programs while addressing challenges facing America. It includes shifting DOD physical and intellectual assets away from Iraq and Afghanistan to the Asia-Pacific, where allies welcome Americans who have mutual economic and national security interests.

The plan includes pioneering technological growth, innovative use of forces including integration of special ops in intelligence and operations, leveraging reserves and finding partners and allies.

DOD expects budgetary cuts, Carter explained: “When it comes to our responsibility to the American taxpayer, we know that in making this strategic transition, we only deserve the amount of money we need.”

He emphasized that DOD is able to adapt to unforeseen events, but must have “stability, time and flexibility.” Carter said he is calling on Congress to provide support and choose against budget cuts in areas most needed for long-term national goals.

Carter spoke reassuringly, but cautioned: “We had and will still have the most powerful military in the world, but we are accepting unnecessary risks.”