With the revised deadline for preventing automatic spending cuts only six weeks away, the Defense Department continues its pleas to Congress to come up with a new budget deal because national security readiness “is at a tipping point.”
On Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said reluctant preparations for sequestration are a drag on the department. “We’re investing a great number of manhours, resources and intensive planning for sequestration, which we, of course, hope to avoid,” he said.
“When you have [forward deployed] service members who are asking about appropriations, that’s a signal to me that [it’s] weighing on their minds,” Little said. When sequestration, continuing resolutions and appropriations become discussion points in Kabul, Vicenza or on Okinawa, that is a sign the debate in Washington is having a negative effect on troop morale, he continued. He said that his own level of awareness has increased with service members’ worries about their families, benefits and ability to complete their mission.
The seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently sent a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and other congressional defense and appropriations leaders. “We are on the brink of creating a hollow force due to an unprecedented convergence of budget conditions and legislation,” they wrote. “Troops on the front lines will receive the support they need, but the rest of the force will be compromised.” That could include grounding aircraft, returning ships to port and stopping the driving of combat vehicles for training.
“We are now planning for the potential to furlough up to nearly 800,000 defense civilians who are essential to critical functions like maintenance, intelligence, logistics, contracting and health care,” they said.”
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