Sequestration Threatens Military’s Successes
June 29, 2012
The nation’s military has logged
historic achievements in the past 12 months, but faces a future clouded
by financial threat, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.
The secretary and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, both spoke about the topic of sequestration during a
briefing with Pentagon reporters.
Panetta summed up the department’s main activities since he became
Defense Secretary last summer, noting that the Iraq War has ended, a
“responsible drawdown” of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has begun, and the
NATO mission in Libya concluded alongside the fall of Moammar Gadhafi.
The department has also “maintained a relentless focus on al-Qaida,” and
put in place a new defense strategy and a budget request focused on the
future force and rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region and the
Middle East, the secretary said.
DOD has also maintained faith with troops by protecting pay and
benefits, and has increased employment opportunities for veterans and
spouses, he noted.
“We implemented the repeal of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,’” Panetta said.
“We've also opened up 14,000 military positions to women, and we've put
in place enhanced measures to prevent sexual assault.”
The biggest threat to all of those accomplishments and initiatives is
sequestration, he said.
Sequestration is a mechanism built into the Budget Control Act that will
trigger an additional half-trillion-dollar cut to defense spending over
the next 10 years if Congress doesn’t otherwise identify spending
reductions the act requires.
helicopter drops water on the wildfire burning in Waldo Canyon on the
U.S. Air Force Academy outside of Colorado Springs, Colo., June 27,
2012. The fires, which have burned more than 15,000 acres, began
spreading to the southwestern corner of the academy, causing base
officials to evacuate residents. Officials estimated that the fire had
spread to about 10 acres of land belonging to the Academy. U.S. Air
Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock
Panetta said the uniformed men and women he’s met in war zones, and the
wounded warriors he’s visited in military hospitals and rehabilitation
centers, “deserve better than the threat of sequestration.”
“Too often today, the nation's problems are held hostage to the
unwillingness to find consensus and compromise,” the secretary said.
Next week on the Fourth of July Americans will celebrate their nation’s
birth, he noted.
“It is a time for our leaders and for every American to recognize that
the blessings of freedom are not free,” Panetta said. “They come from a
legacy of sacrifice, of courage and of leadership. That legacy is now
our responsibility to fulfill, so that hopefully our children can enjoy
a better life in the future.”
Panetta said the defense industry leaders he has consulted with also
face an uncertain future which could include widespread layoffs and
lasting damage to the nation’s military modernization programs.
“We are very much a team,” he said. “ … [Defense] companies, as well as
the Defense Department, are making very clear to Capitol Hill that this
is a matter that ought not to be postponed.”
The department and the nation’s defense industries seek assurance from
Congress that sequestration won’t happen and that “we can proceed with
the budget as we've outlined [it], as opposed to facing … the
possibility of another drastic defense cut,” the secretary said.
Dempsey said his travels in recent weeks, as well as over the past year,
have brought him into contact with a wide range of service members.
“At every stop … I was struck by their tremendous sense of pride and
commitment,” the chairman said. He praised service members’ courage,
selflessness, intelligence, and dedication to the mission.
“They'll do anything to take care of this country,” he said.
Dempsey said he was also struck by troops’ concern over the budget.
“I find it encouraging, on the one hand, that our military family is
informed and interested,” he said. “But it's unfortunate that it weighs
so heavily on their minds. Frankly, they have enough to worry about.”
The chairman noted, “We have to remember, too, that the force of the
future -- that is, America's sons and daughters who may be out there
contemplating a military career -- are also watching.”
said as Panetta has made clear, “We simply have to come together to
prevent this across-the-board, unbalanced cut that could jeopardize our
ability to deal with the very real and serious threats that we face.”
The chairman said he and the service chiefs have no issue with military
budgets facing scrutiny in the current challenging budget climate, or
with the need to make tough program decisions.
“That's why our strategy and the budget that supports it constitute a
carefully balanced set of choices,” Dempsey said. “These choices make
sure we have the right talent and the right tools to keep our country
immune from coercion.”
Dempsey said he, the secretary and the joint chiefs seek a balanced
“A sensible way forward is what we expect,” the chairman said. “That's
the only way we can honor our commitment to our military family and to
the American people.”