On Wednesday, U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) questioned members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the possible impacts of sequestration on defense and the State of Hawaii.
Hanabusa and her colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee received testimony from Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, General Martin Dempsey (JCS Chairman), General Raymond T. Odierno (Chief of Staff, U.S. Army), Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert (Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy), General Mark A. Welsh (Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force), General James F. Amos (Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps), and General Frank J. Grass (Chief, National Guard Bureau).
"Because of the major role the military plays in our state's stability, one of the most important things any Member of Congress representing Hawaii needs to understand is the complex nature of the Department of Defense budget and how the various funding streams impact the state. That is why, since 2011, I have consistently asked senior military officials how they are planning to implement sequestration. By continuously focusing on those tough questions, we have boiled down how the defense budget will affect Hawaii and what we can do to mitigate any damage."
There are two separate issues that the military is dealing with in the short-term. First, the government and Department of Defense have been operating under continuing resolutions (CRs), which cause the services to have more funds in investment accounts than they need, but much less in operations and maintenance funding than required.
Secretary Carter confirmed today that if given the authority to move more money between accounts, the services could meet the needs of funding for day-to-day operations and accounts that are critical to ongoing programs in Hawaii.
"Guidance that has come from the military regarding operating under a continuing resolution paints the worst-case scenario," Hanabusa said, "which causes insecurity and instability in the local community. We saw that recently at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, where Navy-wide cuts were interpreted as local cuts. We are not yet in the clear, but we have been successful in allowing the 2013 apprentice class to move forward while preserving a critical function of our industrial base. "
The second issue is sequestration. If the sequester goes into effect on March 1, the Defense Department would need to cut more than $46 billion from the budget by September. Congress must find a solution by that time to stave off potentially damaging cuts to Hawaii.
"DoD is willing to work on cutting its budget," said Hanabusa, "as evidenced by the $487 billion in cuts outlined by Secretary Panetta and the $200 billion by his predecessor, Secretary Gates. However, they need time to do it, and cannot absorb these cuts all at once through damaging mechanisms like sequestration. We need a comprehensive plan for finding the savings mandated by the Budget Control Act, to achieve a balance between the needs of our military and getting our fiscal house in order. "