Military leaders predict severe impact from sequester

The heads of the military services on Tuesday painted bleak portraits of what their respective service branches would look like if sequestration's across-the-board spending cuts begin in March.

The heads of the military services on Tuesday painted bleak portraits of what their respective service branches would look like if sequestration's across-the-board spending cuts begin in March. They offered the details in Feb. 12 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee—and urged lawmakers to step in to prevent the cuts from kicking in.

"I began my career in a hollow Army," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told the panel, according to the American Services Press Service. "I do not want to end my career in a hollow Army."

Odierno noted that the Budget Control Act's mandatory sequester requires $170 billion in Army spending cuts over the next decade, even as the service faces other budget shortfalls because of funding levels contained in the current continuing resolution. He then laid out a grim scenario of the expected consequences, as well as actions the Army has taken so far.

"We are terminating an estimated 3,100 temporary and term employees and have directed an immediate Army-wide hiring freeze," he told the senators. "We have initiated planning to furlough up to 251,000 civilians for one day a week for 22 weeks, in full recognition of the risks of decreased productivity, morale, and the loss of 20 percent of their pay while furloughed.

"In addition to the hardship this poses to our dedicated workforce, this furlough will have an immediate trickle-down effect as the majority of these civilians are located throughout the U.S. on our posts and stations, and their spending directly impacts local economies and contributes towards state and local taxes," he said.

Odierno said the Army also is making plans to cancel third- and fourth-quarter depot maintenance, which would mean terminating employment of an estimated 5,000 temporary, term, contractor and permanent employees due to reduced workload.

Navy Adm. Mark E. Ferguson III added to Odierno's dire predictions, saying that "the Navy will be unable to execute all the naval force requirements of the combatant commanders."

"Simply stated, the combined effect of a yearlong continuing resolution and sequestration will reduce our Navy's overseas presence and adversely impact the material readiness and proficiency of our force, thus limiting the president's options in time of crisis," Ferguson said.

The head of the Marine Corps echoed Ferguson's concerns regarding the extent of the expected damage.

"Without action from Congress to address the magnitude of defense resource changes, the abrupt nature of the imposition of reductions, and the severe inflexibility in their implementation, the nation will experience significantly degraded defense readiness," Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos testified. "The strategic impacts will be immediate and global."

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Walsh III noted that flying hours remaining in the current fiscal year would drop by 203,000 hours across the Air Force—but also highlighted the sequester's expected effect on operations manned by civilians.

"Should sequestration occur, the Air Force expects the requirement to involuntary furlough up to 180,000 civilian airmen," he said. "The operational impacts will be particularly severe in parts of the Air Force that rely most heavily on civilians, like our depots and some of our flying training bases."

Others testifying before the committee included Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, Under Secretary of Defense Controller Robert F. Hale, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, and National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Frank J. Grass.

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