Pentagon Readies Budget Ax Naval Deployments, Air Force Flying Time and Army Training Face Cuts in March By Dion Nissenbaum

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DeM Banter: well…at least the world is peaceful…[insert sarcasm here]. And good thing Mr Gordon Adams, with all his 1990s expertise can see right through this evil Republican ploy [insert more sarcasm here]…wow, the politics of it all… is very telling, but lets ponder the impact on real lives here and national security…sure would be nice if we had a strategy to bounce these impacts off of…

By Dion Nissenbaum

Wall Street Journal
February 12, 2013
Pg. 6

WASHINGTON—With a growing sense of resignation, Pentagon officials are preparing for billions of dollars in spending reductions, holding out little hope that President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers will be able to avert deep cuts set to take hold on March 1.

As time runs out for a deal, the Navy has made plans to scale back deployments that could affect rapid response to crises, the Air Force is preparing to curb flying hours for pilots, and the Army is planning to curtail training.

“There is very-little-to-no optimism in the Pentagon that there is going to be a solution,” said one top defense official. “The service chiefs are planning for the worst.”

Departing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Pentagon leaders have begun detailing the impact of the automatic spending reductions—known as sequestration—that are slated to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget in the next decade. That would translate to more than $46 billion in military cuts—about 9% of the defense budget—in the next seven months.

“This is not a game,” Mr. Panetta said in a speech last week at Georgetown University. “This is a reality.”

The automatic reductions would come on top of spending constraints already in effect because lawmakers have failed to approve a budget. To be sure, the cuts could go into effect in the beginning of March and then be softened by Congress not long afterward.

In response to the budget problems, the Defense Department has imposed a hiring freeze, slowed spending on military contracts, restricted travel and ordered the layoff of 46,000 part-time workers. Nearly 90% of the 800,000 civilian workers in the Defense Department are facing temporary furloughs of up to 22 days if sequestration goes forward.

Already, the Navy has halted deployment of a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, reducing the U.S. presence at least temporarily, and has delayed the overhaul of a second carrier.

The Navy, which faces $8.6 billion in cuts this year because of the dual budget problems, also is evaluating cancellation of deployments to South America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Europe. Those moves could restrict the Navy’s ability to quickly respond on short notice to urgent regional missions, such as the 2011 no-fly zone over Libya.

“If something like that happened in the Mediterranean next year, we would not have the ability to respond to that kind of crisis,” according to the defense official.

The naval presence in the Pacific, where the U.S. had been looking to shift more forces in the coming years to deal with rising threats, could be cut by up to 35% under the plans.

The Army is planning to scale back training, which could affect the readiness of three-quarters of its brigade combat teams and tens of thousands of American soldiers.

Air Force officials said they would respond to the cuts by scaling back this year’s flying time for pilots by 200,000 hours—about one-third of the total remaining flying hours between March and October—and reducing its purchases of advanced F-35 jets.

The cuts could also force renegotiation of major defense contracts, including a $35 billion deal with Boeing Co. BA -0.90% for a new aerial refueling tanker. The move might squander savings that government officials secured in negotiating the original contract, said Jamie Morin, acting undersecretary for the Air Force.

Across the nation, commanders at military bases are bracing for projected cuts in budgets and workforces. At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the largest military base in Ohio, commanders are facing the prospect of forcing up to 40% of their 29,700 employees to take up to 22 days off this year, trimming their salaries by 20%.

“We’re determining what we can do that will not cripple us,” said John Klemack, director of public affairs at the base.

But Gordon Adams, an associate director in the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton, said he was skeptical of the Pentagon’s dire warnings and suggested that they might be designed in part to put pressure on Republicans to agree to a budget deal.

“Some of the things they say may well be decisions that are intended to inflame the situation,” said Mr. Adams, who now teaches international relations at American University. “I am dubious that all those things are necessary, but nobody outside the Pentagon can really say what the cuts should really be.”

Pentagon leaders will outline their concerns Tuesday when the nation’s top generals appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“A lot of our enemies in the Middle East are watching—and Iran is rejoicing, I’m sure,” Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), the ranking Republican member of the committee, said in an interview.

Like others, Mr. Inhofe said there are growing concerns that ideological divisions will prevent negotiators from crafting a compromise.

“There’s a prevailing thought among some conservatives, ‘Well, let’s just go ahead and let the bottom drop out and blame Obama for it,'” he said. “Frankly, I don’t have the confidence in the honesty of our media to help fortify that message—and I think he’d come out smelling like a rose.”

Top defense industry executives still were hoping for a last-minute reprieve from the cuts. On Monday, executives joined with groups representing health care, manufacturing, social services and other sectors to call for a “balanced, bipartisan approach” to avert the automatic cuts.

Industry leaders are hoping that Mr. Obama and congressional leaders will work out a deal like the one they crafted at the start of this year that prevented automatic spending cuts and tax increases from taking effect.

That deal, however, only delayed the spending cuts for two months, setting the stage for the second round of political negotiations.

Mr. Obama has urged lawmakers to consider another short-term deal to avert the cuts, but Republicans have rejected the president’s approach, adding to the gloom at the Pentagon.

“It’s truly unfortunate and irresponsible, but there’s a sense that some members of the House and Senate would rather see the end of the horror film than find a way out of sequestration,” said a senior administration official.

Under direction from the administration, the Pentagon waited until fairly recently to begin detailed planning for the looming cuts. After assessing the impact, defense officials are waging a last-ditch campaign for a deal.

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