WASHINGTON – Bracing for the possibility of steep congressionally mandated budget cuts, senior military officials have issued directives for fiscal retrenchment that include a 30 percent cut for Army base operations this year, personnel reductions and a halt to unnecessary fighter jet swoops during special events.
The military is ordering these trims reluctantly as the Pentagon prepares for a $52 billion shortfall that it says it will face this fiscal year if Congress and the White House do not reach a deal by March 1 to avoid across-the-board cuts under the scenario known as sequestration. As the deadline approaches, Pentagon officials have lashed out at Congress in unusually stern terms.
The readiness of our Armed Forces is at a tipping point, Gen. Martin Dempsey wrote to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a Jan. 14 letter also signed by the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Budget conditions unfolding right now are causing this readiness crisis.
Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote that we are on the brink of creating a hollow force, because under the current budget conditions and legislation, the Pentagon could be ordered to keep a number of troops it can’t sustain.
Troops on the front lines will receive the support they need, the letter said, but the rest of the force will be compromised.
The Army, Navy and Air Force have issued written guidance to commanders in recent days outlining cost-cutting measures. The Army’s, dated Jan. 16, is the most detailed and provides the clearest look yet into the preparations.
The fiscal situation and outlook are serious, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno and Secretary of the Army John McHugh wrote in a memo issued to all Army commands. Our funding is in doubt as we support forward-deployed troops, those training to deploy and Wounded Warriors.
The memo instructs commanders to avoid cutting programs supporting wounded troops and those training for deployment. It mandates a department-wide hiring freeze and asks commanders to terminate temporary employees consistent with mission requirements.
Overall, the memo says the Army will seek to slash its base operations budget by 30 percent from fiscal year 2012 by cutting back on recreational programs and utilities. The Army projects that could save $2 billion. The $52 billion in projected cuts is roughly 10 percent of the department’s non-war-fighting budget for 2013.