Retired Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations until a year ago, said the coming defense budget sequester will be tantamount to shooting the military in the head.
“We worked very hard to do that, and I can say that as you look at the military today, and look at that money that was taken out of the budget, you are still able to see the military do the things that you expect it to do,” he said.
“Maybe you’re stressing the people a little bit more, stressing the systems a little bit more. But it’s pretty much the military that the American people have come to know.”
The looming additional $660 billion cut over 10 years, however, will change that, he said.
The four-star admiral said the congressional legislation mandating sequestration, as the automatic cuts are called, was never intended to fix the problem. Instead it was meant as a “deterrent” and incentive to drawing up budgets and policies that would fix funding issues.
Paraphrasing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, the admiral said: “Sequestration is shooting ourselves in the head. It really is quite significant.”
The mandatory reduction is supposed to kick in Jan. 2, if a budget agreement is not reached; so far that has not happened. Congress has passed a continuing resolution that now gives the government probably until March before the cuts kick in, although spending will remain restricted for defense under the resolution.
For example, the Navy is being forced to delay refueling a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
“So you’re beginning to see some disruption there,” Adm. Roughead said.
The sequestration will impose a 9.4 percent cut from discretionary defense spending and an 8.2 percent cut in nondefense spending, he said. A little-noticed provision of the Budget Control Act added another 1.9 percent cut to defense spending, he added.
Those cuts would translate into a $60.6 billion reduction in defense budgets every year for 10 years, and it would be equally cut throughout the budget in what he called “budget cutting with an ax.”
A total of 1.4 million jobs will be lost as a result; and because military personnel are exempted, the cuts will require slashing money from other significant elements of the military.
Operations in Afghanistan are not exempted, which will force the military to cut money elsewhere, he said.
The defense industrial base also will be hit hard.