As sequestration forces the Pentagon to consider truly transformative cuts to the US military, the knives are coming out even more readily than usual in a town known for fierce infighting. In a letter to the House of Representatives Secretary of Defense Hagel outlined some draconian measures designed to get the Congress concerned.
He said that if sequestration continued that the Department would be forced to:
- Reduce the budget for operations and maintenance
- Reduce modernization accounts
- Halt adding to the force
- End all Permanent Change of Station moves
- Stop discretionary bonuses
- Freeze all promotions
- Accelerate the reduction of the size of the military
- Reduce the civilian force
- Further reduce training
He offered to avoid these measures if:
- The fees for military use of civilian medical facilities (TRICARE)
- Slow growth in military pay
- And close more military bases
These measures, where the service members are called upon to pay the cost of sequestration, are obvious political ploys. The service related associations such as the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) responded accordingly: “We are concerned that DOD continues to pit sustainment of the military’s most valuable long term resource—the All-Volunteer Force—against short term costs.”
But Hagel’s comments demonstrate that the current budget environment has created an open season on traditional concepts. Senior military commanders and civilians have become far more vocal in warning about the potential of a 1970s-style hollowed out force, or the potential need to shed certain capabilities in order to protect core functions, as indicated above.
Unfortunately the services are working in a vacuum created by the lack of strategic direction coming from the White House. Last year’s Defense Strategic Guidance was not strategic and it failed to provide any practical guidance on how to address the new strategic environment. The result is that there is a growing sense of a”food fight” over the defense budget. The services are preparing to fight over the scraps to protect their forces, but also I am sure “some pet rocks” (Congressional favorites).
Each of the services is spelling out dire consequences. In coming articles we will lay out the dire consequences that each service has suggested.