Additional Budget Cuts Would Devastate Military, Spokesman Says

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT EN ROUTE TO SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 15, 2011 — Near­ly $1 tril­lion in defense cuts that the 2011 Bud­get Con­trol Act could require would dev­as­tate the mil­i­tary and the defense indus­tri­al base, and could add 1 per­cent to the nation’s unem­ploy­ment rate, the Pen­ta­gon press sec­re­tary said today.

A “seques­tra­tion” mech­a­nism in the nation’s debt-reduc­tion law auto­mat­i­cal­ly takes more cuts out of fed­er­al spend­ing if Con­gress fails to enact fur­ther mea­sures to reduce the deficit by Nov. 24.

For the Defense Depart­ment, that means anoth­er $500 bil­lion from defense spend­ing over 10 years, on top of $350 bil­lion in cuts already iden­ti­fied over the same peri­od.

“If we move toward seques­tra­tion,” Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle told reporters, ” … we would be look­ing at, in all like­li­hood, the small­est Army and Marine Corps in decades, the small­est tac­ti­cal Air Force since [that branch of the ser­vice] was estab­lished, and the small­est Navy in near­ly 100 years.”

Lit­tle made the com­ments en route to the Australia-U.S. Min­is­te­r­i­al Con­sul­ta­tions that start in San Fran­cis­co tomor­row. Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta is tak­ing part in the meet­ings, along with Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton.

The depart­ment has been look­ing at hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in bud­get cuts and Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta has been adamant, Lit­tle said, that mov­ing to seques­tra­tion would be a “dev­as­tat­ing” sce­nario for the nation’s secu­ri­ty.

The sec­re­tary “has reit­er­at­ed time and time again that we don’t have to choose between our fis­cal secu­ri­ty and our nation­al secu­ri­ty,” Lit­tle said, “but if we go to seques­tra­tion, we would very well have to make that choice.

Lit­tle said that $1 tril­lion in cuts would make it nec­es­sary for the Pen­ta­gon to break faith in some areas — includ­ing jobs and salary ben­e­fits — with those in uni­form who are serv­ing the nation.

“In a time of war,” he said, “that’s unac­cept­able.”

At the Pen­ta­gon, inter­nal analy­sis shows that seques­tra­tion also would have a pro­found impact on the U.S. indus­tri­al base, he added, by threat­en­ing many of the 3.8 mil­lion mil­i­tary and civil­ian jobs that the sec­tor rep­re­sents.

“We’re not talk­ing about just mil­i­tary jobs, we’re also talk­ing about jobs in the pri­vate sec­tor that sup­port the inno­va­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ties that we need to keep Amer­i­ca strong,” he said.

Mov­ing to seques­tra­tion and the addi­tion­al bud­get cuts it would require, depart­ment offi­cials believe “would poten­tial­ly add 1 per­cent to the nation­al unem­ploy­ment rate,” Lit­tle said.

Panet­ta, he added, has made Con­gress aware of the con­se­quences of such deep defense cuts.

The near­ly $400 bil­lion in cuts already expect­ed from the Defense Depart­ment “is hard but man­age­able,” Lit­tle said. “Tough choic­es have to be made. A tril­lion dol­lars in defense cuts is unac­cept­able.”

It’s impor­tant to have a nation­al con­ver­sa­tion about where the mil­i­tary is head­ed in the 21st cen­tu­ry, he added, and the Defense Depart­ment wants the agreed-on cuts “to be defined and framed by strat­e­gy, and not by arith­metic.”

The sec­re­tary and oth­er offi­cials are in close con­tact with Con­gress and will con­tin­ue to dis­cuss the issue through the fall, Lit­tle said.

“We are strong­ly encour­ag­ing every­one in this coun­try to look at what we need to keep faith with our troops, to keep the strongest mil­i­tary in the world strong, and to go about this bud­get-cut­ting process in a way that’s rea­son­able.”

Every­one in Wash­ing­ton wants a strong nation­al defense, the press sec­re­tary said, adding, “We want to make it very clear that seques­tra­tion is a red line that this gov­ern­ment should not cross.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)