Levin Opening Statement, Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Impacts of Sequestration and/or a Full-year Continuing Resolution on the Department of Defense

By:  Carl Levin
Date: Feb. 12, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

This morning the Committee meets to consider the impacts of sequestration and a full-year continuing resolution on the Department of Defense. We welcome Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who are accompanied at the witness table by:

* Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Robert Hale,
* Chief of Staff of the Army, General Raymond Odierno,
* Vice-Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mark Ferguson,
* Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos,
* Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Mark Welsh, and
* Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Frank Grass.

I would like to start by thanking all of you for your continued service to the nation and to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines at home and in harm's way around the globe. They and their families deserve our utmost support. We appreciate your testimony before us today.

Some members of Congress and commentators in the press have said that we should let sequestration go into effect: that it would be better to severely cut the budget than to work out a deficit reduction agreement that would require compromise with others who don't share their views. I couldn't disagree more. Sequestration is arbitrary and irrational. It will not only weaken our security but, as Secretary Panetta said: "It's not just defense, it's education, loss of teachers, it's child care. . . . It's about food safety, it's about law enforcement, it's about airport safety."

If sequestration and a year-long continuing resolution go into effect, the impact on DOD will be devastating. For example, the Army requested $36.6 billion in its FY 2013 budget, but the CR rules give it only the FY 2012 amount of $30.6 billion. Sequestration would cut an additional $6 billion. Because the Army has already spent $16 billion, it would have only $8 billion left to get through the rest of the fiscal year. Moreover, unexpectedly high operational demands will require that as much as $6 billion of the remaining funds be spent on overseas operations, leaving the Army with only 10% of the money it needs for domestic O&M during the next 7 months.

We will hear today that the military services are already taking near-term actions to mitigate the impacts of the CR and the impending sequester. For example, DOD has already instituted civilian hiring freezes, reduced or eliminated temporary and term employees, deferred facilities maintenance, and begun cancelling or postponing the maintenance of ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles. If sequestration is implemented, they will begin to implement additional actions, including furloughs for most civilian employees, cutbacks in flying hours, steaming hours, and other military training, and cancellation of contracts. In addition, hundreds of DOD investment programs -- acquisition programs and research and development projects -- may become unexecutable.

Even if many of the short term actions are still reversible if we act promptly, they will have long-term costs -- and the longer Congress postpones action, the higher those costs will be. For example the Army informs us that if sequestration continues through the end of the fiscal year, two-thirds of its brigade combat teams will fall below acceptable readiness levels. The Air Force says that it will not be able to support requirements outside of Afghanistan and will experience significant degradation in its air drop and refueling capabilities. The Navy says that the Nimitz and George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Groups will not be ready for scheduled deployments later this year, resulting in an indefinite extension of the Truman and Eisenhower deployments, with the resulting impact on morale and retention. By the end of the summer, DOD says that it will be unable to pay its TRICARE bills and will be in a position of having to deny service to military members, families, and retirees.

There are bipartisan solutions to the both CR problem and the sequester problem. We can't afford to look the other way and pretend that there isn't a huge, looming problem. Sequestration will be a massive problem for the national defense. It will create a huge and unconscionable problem for our men and women in uniform and their families. It is incumbent upon Congress and the President to find a solution -- together.

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