Continued sequestration in 2014 could mean civilian layoffs, “draconian” cuts to personnel accounts and a “virtual halt” to technological progress for the military, according to a letter Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent to senators this week.
When the Defense Department submitted its budget request to the White House earlier this year, it intentionally did not assume sequester cuts would remain in effect through the coming fiscal year. But in his letter Wednesday, Hagel outlined his “Plan B” — what the Pentagon will do if the possibility of 2014 sequester becomes reality.
“If the cuts continue, the department will have to make sharp cuts with far-reaching consequences, including limiting combat power, reducing readiness and undermining the national security interests of the United States,” Hagel said in a statement.
By the numbers, Hagel said continued sequestration would mean a $52 billion cut to the Pentagon’s current allocation in the White House 2014 budget. The request was already $40 billion below an estimated 2013 final spending level of $566 (as calculated by Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments), and included raised fees for some military retiree’s health care and slower pay raises.
In his letter, Hagel said he supported the 2014 defense spending levels the White House set. Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and James Inhofe, R-Okla. — each party’s top-ranking Armed Services Committee member — requested the letter, asking Hagel to put specifics to vague rhetoric. Hagel specified hiring freezes will remain in place and facilities maintenance funds will get slashed further.
“DOD could accommodate the required reductions only by putting into place an extremely severe package of military personnel actions including halting all accessions, ending all permanent-change-of-station moves, stopping discretionary bonuses and freezing all promotions,” Hagel wrote.
The cuts will also decrease the military’s training capacity, Hagel wrote. Fewer training hours contribute to more aircraft accidents and lowers deployable combat power. Additionally, delayed technological advancement will hurt military readiness in the long run.
“The size, readiness and technological superiority of our military will be reduced, placing at much greater risk the country’s ability to meet our current national security commitments,” the letter reads.
While most experts agree the cuts will dampen the military’s effectiveness in various areas, some, including Todd Harrison, think Hagel’s letter remained too vague.
“The Pentagon is still stuck in same mode as last year,” Harrison told USA Today. “Instead of doing difficult detailed planning, they’re relying on vague, nonspecific threats hoping spur Congress.”