DeM Banter: And so it goes…eh? And yes…we all have the memo….trying to figure out the impacts now.
U-T San Diego
January 17, 2013
Many Americans breathed a sigh of relief when the outgoing House compromised and agreed to the Senate’s bill that averted the so-called fiscal cliff. Members of Congress demonstrated they can work together and do what is best for America. But, by only postponing the devastating impact to our national security that will be caused by sequestration, our nation’s national and economic security is now at risk.
In their pre-election rhetoric, leadership in both the executive and the legislative branches promised that sequestration – indiscriminate, acrossthe- board cuts to discretionary accounts – would never happen. They knew the effects would be so damaging, and so unacceptable to the American people that, somehow, an agreement would be met.
On the last day possible, the old Congress punted to the new Congress, giving them two months to figure it out. What happened to our executive and congressional leaders who guaranteed they would never let this senseless action happen?
The Department of Defense has been mum on sequestration cuts for the past several months.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta did acknowledge the cuts would gut the military, making it incapable of conducting maintenance, training our troops, developing and acquiring new equipment and, most importantly, executing the national security strategy.
Recently, the service departments have finally begun planning on how to implement these cuts.
The DOD issued a memorandum to the services telling them to be prepared to take a number of steps to execute sequestration.
These measures include furloughing thousands of civilian employees, freezing all civilian hiring, laying off temporary hires and not renewing contracts with term employees. All travel and training will be significantly curtailed.
Administrative overhead and facilities programs will also be cut. Because of the long lead time requirement, DOD has approved the cancellation of all thirdand fourth-quarter ship and aircraft maintenance activities effective Feb. 16.
All research and development contracts greater than $500 million are slated to be slashed, a severe blow to the future of our war-fighting capabilities. For now, care for our wounded warriors and military pay is safe, as is funding for current wartime operations.
However, no guarantees are being made to protect family programs, maintain combat readiness training or to develop the capabilities and requirements for the highly touted pivot to the Pacific revised national security strategy. Naval officials have testified before Congress that the barely adequate force of today’s 287 ships would decrease to 230 combatants – meaning maintaining “freedom of the seas” would be problematic. Aviation assets would be cut approximately 20 percent.
With such uncertainty, the only thing for sure that we know is that we will be left with a hollow force. The nation’s combat readiness and homeland security threat level preparations would be reminiscent of – but worse than – the hollow forces of the 1970s and ’90s.
Not only is our nation’s security faced with sequestration, we still do not have an operating budget for fiscal 2013. Congress instead opted to issue yet another continuing resolution (CR), which keeps the lights on for the federal government until March 27, at which time either a 2013 budget is approved, another CR is passed or we face another government shutdown.
The second and third of those options severely affect the economic security of our nation. The services know they will have less funding in 2013 – they just don’t know how much money will be available three or six or nine months from now. To quote our commander-In-chief: “It’s absurd.” Yes, it is absurd, and irresponsible that our nation’s security is held captive to partisan politics. The very first responsibility of Congress mentioned in the United States Constitution is to provide for the common defense. The first defined responsibility of the president is that of commanderin-chief. Clearly, the governing instrument of our nation places great emphasis on our nation’s defense and solidly places this responsibility with the legislative and executive branches. For most of our nation’s issues, healthy debate is an effective means for government to carry out its role in our society.
However, the structure of government such as ours is that we are able to democratically elect leaders that, once in office, are bound to a constitutional construct. The respective sides, executive and legislative – or Democrat and Republican – must execute their responsibilities they swore to defend, as defined in the Constitution.
Without a budget, not only can the services not execute to the requirements today, they cannot properly plan for tomorrow. The security of our nation, and providing the resources the men and women of our armed forces need to do their job, should never be a partisan issue.
But our elected officials have decided that our nation’s security has been and will be part of the partisan debate. For either side, there is nothing to gain, but America has much to lose – including both national and economic security.
Lumme, a retired Navy captain and naval aviator, is national executive director of the Navy League of the United States.