Budget reductions affect military readiness and increase risk

Thursday, May 01, 2014

It’s a fact of life that the depth of budget reductions and the draconian way they are applied will affect military readiness and increase risk, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said March 7 on the PBS "Newshour" program.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told Judy Woodruff that "risks are beginning to accrue" and that it is imperative that the military get some sort of fiscal consistency for planning purposes.

The fiscal 2015 budget request would be a good place to start, he said.

That budget supports the military strategy, and allows the department to plan for the future. Still, there are problems, he said.

"Even at the budget level that has been submitted by the department, which is about $115 billion over the Budget Control Act, most commonly known as sequestration," he said, "at that level we can still be the most powerful military in the world in 2020, which is about where we project out to."

Under the budget request, there will be more than 1 million active duty service members, which rises to almost 2 million when the reserve components are included.

"We have forward operating bases," Dempsey said. "We have close, strong alliances. This is not a military in decline, nor will it be [in decline] at the level of budget we submitted."

But if the Defense Department must implement the full sequestration reductions of the Budget Control Act in fiscal 2016, he added, "then we will have what I think would be too much risk."

Budgeting one year at a time also imposes its own risks, he said, because the government writ large tries to adapt to the future and to future budget realities each year, rather than by a plan.

"We need to have the flexibility to be able to use the money that we’re given in a responsible way to build the joint force we need," he said, "and right now I don’t know that we’re going to get that flexibility.

"If we are able to manage the budget in the way we’ve articulated in our budget submission, [if] we get flexibility we need, if we do that and live up to the promises that are actually articulated in the Quadrennial Defense Review, we will be able to manage this at moderate risk," he continued.

Adding, "If we don’t get that flexibility, the risk in certain areas becomes very high."