Continued Sequestration Would Exacerbate Cuts At Installation Level, Hagel Warns
Defense Communities 360
July 10, 2013
Spending on installation and community support would continue to suffer significant reductions next year if the Pentagon is forced to accommodate $52 billion in automatic cuts to its fiscal 2014 budget, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
Funding for facilities maintenance and base operations is taking a disproportionate hit this year to mitigate the impact of $37 billion in sequester cuts, and those accounts would continue to bear the burden of deficit reduction next year. Limits on facilities maintenance in FY 2014 “would add to the list of facilities that need work,” while cutbacks in community support would “disrupt or halt community activities that help build bonds between the military and local citizens,” according to a memo from Hagel
“Overall these various actions would reduce jobs in local communities, including many jobs in small businesses, and so contribute to disrupting community life in areas near military bases,” the memo states.
The consequences for civilian employees may be greater next year, however, as the department considers “mandatory reductions-in-force (RIFs)” in an attempt to avoid another year of furloughs. “While painful, RIFs would permit DOD to make targeted cuts in civilian personnel levels rather than the more across-the-board cuts associated with furloughs,” according to the memo.
Hagel’s memo and accompanying letter to the committee provides a “high-level summary of an early version of DOD’s contingency plan for FY 2014? and does not spell out specific cuts. It came in response to a request for the secretary to outline how the department would cope with spending caps next year. The budget request the administration sent Congress for FY 2014 assumed the caps would be lifted in FY 2014.
“In sum, the abrupt, deep cuts caused by the BCA [2011 Budget Control Act] caps in FY 2014 will force DOD to make nonstrategic changes,” he stated. Training and readiness would remain at currently degraded levels, according to the memo, or in some cases would continue to decline.
Two Navy air wings might not be able to achieve full flight hours; special operations units would experience declining readiness; the Army most likely would cancel many of its culminating training events at its combat training centers for a second straight year; and the Air Force would significantly reduce training at more than half of its active flying units.
To avoid even greater cuts in combat power, readiness and modernization, Hagel urged lawmakers to support the cost-cutting recommendations the Pentagon asked for in previous budget requests. Those include limiting growth in military pay raises; raising Tricare retiree fees; eliminating lower-priority ships; retiring all Air Force aircraft proposed in last year’s budget; and enacting statutory changes to allow officials to target “lower-performing” civilian personnel.
“Finally, the department hopes that Congress will support DOD’s request for another round of Base Closure and Realignment in 2015. While BRAC will not save near-term dollars, the past five BRAC rounds are now saving more than $12 billion a year, and another round will eventually add to these substantial savings,” the memo states.