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.
“The whole contracting process would probably grind to a halt,” as major adjustments are made to the budget, Adm. Roughead said.
Nuclear modernization programs also probably would cease, resulting in the Navy’s inability to finish research and development on a new submarine, he said. To maintain the force, two additional submarines would be required to make up for the failure to meet replacement deadlines.
The defense industrial base also is in trouble. Adm. Roughead said the number of major shipbuilders has declined from six to two. With 17 percent of fuel used for ships at sea derived from nuclear energy, the number of major nuclear suppliers has declined from eight to two.
Adm. Roughead warned that U.S. military power needs to be preserved because no other force in the world has its reach and capabilities.
NATO struggled during last year’s military operation in Libya and the United States had to take down Libyan air defenses, which it did in a matter of hours, he said.
“When people [in Iran] talk about closing the Straits of Hormuz, in the Arabian Gulf, no one can guarantee passage in that critical strait other than the United States,” he said.
“When we talk about the South China Sea and the East China Sea and causing cooler heads to prevail, so that some of these issues [between China and its neighbors] can be worked out, it’s the United States that provides the credible presence. No one else can do that.”
The question is whether the United States will maintain that force, and Adm. Roughead said he believes the military must be kept strong.
Obama and Arab culture
Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, said President Obama in his 2009 apology tour to the Middle East violated a central tenet of Arab culture during a speech in Cairo by criticizing the United States.
Mr. Ajami told the conference that Mr. Obama’s June 4, 2009, speech to the Muslim world was laced with Koranic verses and included an apology for America’s past transgressions in an effort to curry favor with Muslims.
“On Arab soil, without knowing the wellsprings of Arab life, he told them that the Iraq war was a war of choice,” said Mr. Ajami, co-chairman of Hoover’s Working Group on Islamism and International Order.
“He violated the most sacred tenet of Arab culture, the most fundamental tenet of Arab culture: My brother and I against my cousin; my cousin and I against the stranger. You never trash your own people amidst strangers. This is the first thing every child in the Arab world is told,” he said.
The Arabs may have heard what the president said, but they would never think well of people who make such criticisms, he said, noting that Mr. Obama apparently was never told this by his aides.
The Lebanon-born Mr. Ajami said as the president’s term in office is winding down, the entire engagement strategy of his administration is “in ruins.”
“No one loves the ‘Awaited One,’ and no one fears him,” he said.
Rogue states, old and new
Pakistan and Venezuela are in danger of becoming 21st century rogue states, as older rogue regimes such as Libya and Syria move toward becoming less-dangerous failed states, according to Hoover Institution senior fellow Thomas H. Henriksen.
“Pakistan is the ultimate nightmare scenario,” Mr. Henriksen said in an interview, noting the possibility of an Islamic takeover of a country with an estimated 100 nuclear weapons.
Because of its large number of Islamic radical groups, Pakistan — currently a democracy and quasi-ally of the United States — could fragment and become “the ultimate rogue state” in the future, Mr. Henriksen.
“It’s not quite there, but it bears watching,” Mr. Henriksen said earlier in a speech. “It’s probably the one state that should keep everybody up at night because it does have this nuclear capacity.”
Venezuela, too, is not part of the small group of post-Soviet rogue states, but under the regime of Hugo Chavez also could move into that category based on its anti-U.S. posture and growing links to countries such as Iran, Mr. Henriksen said.
The Chavez regime is seeking to create a new anti-U.S. coalition and is fomenting unrest and instability in neighboring states.
“It bears watching,” he said.
Of the original countries recognized as rogue states that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Iran, North Korea and Cuba remain, although the communist regime in Havana is also losing its status as a rogue nation, Mr. Henriksen said Monday.
The rogue states benefited from Soviet Cold War support that provided arms, training and high-technology weapons and also spawned the use of terrorism as state policy, he said.
The rogues worked as surrogates for Moscow against the United States.
Modern-day rogue states are characterized by their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear arms, as well the export of terrorism. Other features include efforts to destabilize their regions, flaunt international laws and rule by dictatorships that violate human rights and suppress dissent.
Iran has remained at the top of the list of rogues since the Islamic revolution in 1979 because of its pursuit of nuclear arms and its international sponsorship of terrorists, specifically Hezbollah and Hamas.
North Korea also remains one of the more dangerous nuclear-armed rogue states. Once loyal to the Soviet Union, Pyongyang is falling more into the political orbit of China, which provides energy and other goods.
As for Cuba, Mr. Henriksen said the regime in Havana is “now a decayed state.”
“It doesn’t really threaten the United States militarily,” he said. “But in many ways the Cubans of the 1970s were the kind of spear point of the Soviet empire.”
Cuban forces were active in communist subversion in Latin America and some 20,000 Cuban troops fought for communism in Africa.
Mr. Henriksen, an adviser to the U.S. Special Operations Command, spoke during a conference at the Hoover Institution on his newly published book, “America and the Rogue States.”