Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday and delivered stern warnings about the impact that budget cuts known as sequestration are having on the military. Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report for NY1.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Military service chiefs were specific and explicit in explaining how the across-the-board federal spending cuts, known as sequestration, will affect national security. They emphasized the same point, that the cuts have consequences which will undermine the Army's readiness, degrade the Navy's fleet, delay Air Force weapon system purchases and make the Marines to operate at a minimum level.
"We have also learned from previous draw downs that the full burden of an unprepared and hollow force will fall directly on the shoulders of our men and women in uniform. " said Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno.
"The impacts of sequestration will be realized in two main categories: operations and maintenance and our investments," said Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations.
"These disruptions will, over time, cost more money to rectify contract breaches, raise unit costs and delay delivery of critical equipment," said Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh.
"Over my 43-year career as a United States Marine, I have seen the effects of strategic miscalculations resulting from declining resources and budget-driven strategies that resulted in wholesale force cuts. Following the Gulf War, we saw firsthand how deep cuts in our military produced unintended consequences and increased risk to our nation," said General James Amos, Marine Corps Commandant.
With sequestration in place, the Defense Department is set to lose $500 billion over the next 10 years. By the numbers, that means the active duty Army will shrink to 490,000 troops from a wartime high of 570,000 troops. The Army National Guard would cut about 8,000, and the Army Reserve will stay at its current size of 205,000.
Complicating matters, Congress is currently debating a short-term spending bill that continues sequestration. The Army says that would present a worst-case scenario.
"My biggest fear, actually, what keeps me up at night, is that I am asked to deploy soldiers on some unknown contingency and they are not ready," Odierno said.