The House Armed Services Committee recently sent President Barack Obama a report outlining cuts the military would have to make under the “sequestration” formula in this year’s Budget Control Act. Unless Congress and the president agree to an alternative long-term plan to reduce the deficit (supposedly coming from the so-called “supercommittee”), there will be automatic reductions in “discretionary” spending.
That means huge cuts to the Pentagon budget. In 2013 alone, sequestration would slash defense spending up to 18 percent. Over 10 years, the military would take a $1 trillion hit.
The Armed Services Committee report translates those near-abstract numbers into what they would mean in terms of reductions in military force. The results are stunning. Every service would lose substantial capabilities.
America’s Army would lose a quarter of its active-duty troops, leaving the service smaller than it was on 9/11. The scramble to assemble enough forces for Iraq and Afghanistan clearly demonstrated that the pre-Sept. 11 Army was too small to deal with even moderate-size contingencies.
The Navy could lose two carrier battle groups. That can’t make sense. The Navy carrier force is already too small to cover the world. When Obama committed U.S. forces to Libya, he found there was no carrier available.
The Air Force would have about one-third of the fighter planes it had in the 1990s. And there would be scant funds to buy next-generation aircraft such as the F-35 fighter.
Stuck with such a shrunken, mostly same-old fleet, the U.S. can never plan on having air supremacy in future conflicts — especially given the pace at which potential adversaries such as China are pursuing next-generation fighters and advanced air defenses of their own.
The Marine Corps makes out worst of all. Sequestration cuts would leave the Corps short so many amphibious ships that its ability to mount any significant operation would be questionable, at best.
The Pentagon has been passing around the Armed Services Committee report like Halloween candy, but the White House has yet to send a clear signal to Congress. Already laid out are $450 billion in defense cuts — reductions that are now eroding force capabilities and readiness. Additional cuts would leave the U.S. even less of a military power than we were when Obama came into office.
Now is the time for the president to flat-out tell the supercommittee and Congress that more defense cuts are simply unacceptable.
If the Pentagon is forced to implement further budget reductions, any president needing to use the military to protect America’s interests will be in for a rude awakening.
Examiner columnist James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national security at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org heritage.org).