Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04), Chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, held a hearing this afternoon to assess the multiple readiness challenges facing the United States Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force as the services brace for future rounds of cuts to the defense budget. At the hearing, the Vice Chiefs and the Assistant Commandant acknowledged that the respective services cannot currently meet all of the stated needs of the combatant commanders in the field beyond Central Command. The Vice Chiefs and the Assistant Commandant all stated on the record that they could not withstand additional, significant defense cuts without fundamentally altering force structure and strategy.
According to the House Armed Services Committee, President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have offered a proposal that would result in $868 Billion in defense cuts over 10 years when weighed against the FY11 budget request. Immediately, the plan would cut defense in real terms below the FY11-enacted level of $553 billion and hold defense below the FY11-enacted level through FY13. It represents a $16 billion cut to FY12 levels for next year and a $26 billion cut for the following year. Since the President originally submitted his budget proposal for FY11, defense has already shrunk $439 billion over 10 years.
Key Witness Quotes:
General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, U.S. Marine Corps: On current ability to meet needs of commanders in field, “Currently, we are not able to meet all the forward presence requirements of the other combatant commanders, in the Pacific Command, in the Southern Command, European Command, and Africa Command. Also, in the case of another major contingency operation, the United States Marine Corps would not, right now, be able to meet the timelines of the combatant commanders in response to another major contingency operation should it occur simultaneously with current operations in Afghanistan.”
On cuts ranging from $400billion - $1trillion, “We would start to have to make some fundamental changes in the capability of the Marine Corps.”
General Philip M. Breedlove, Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force: On current ability to meet needs of commanders in field, “I will tell you that some of our low-density, high-demand requirements, personnel recovery, ISR, and a few are right at the ragged edge. And as we continue to be challenged by new tasks around North Africa and other places, we are right at the limit of supporting CENTCOM in those low-density, high-demand assets. Similarly, once you get outside of CENTCOM, we would have some risk. And those risks fall in these familiar areas, personnel recovery, ISR, some of our intel assets, limited demand, are being pretty much consumed by the CENTCOM fight.”
On cuts ranging from $400billion - $1trillion, “We would have to go into a fundamental restructure of what it is our nation expects from our Air Force.”
General Peter W. Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army: On current ability to meet needs of commanders in field, “No, we cannot meet all the other COCOM commander's validated demands. Those are prioritized through the global force management process. We work hard to meet them. We are not able to meet them all.”
On cuts ranging from $400billion - $1trillion, “You're reaching an area there that I think would definitely we'd have to look very, very hard at our strategy, what we can and cannot do.”
Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy: On current ability to meet needs of commanders in field, “To meet Combatant Commanders needs unconstrained, doing some analysis, I need about 400 ships. I have 285 ships.”
On cuts ranging from $400billion - $1trillion, “If we have a reduction of the kind that was passed around here - $400 billion or $886 billion - without a comprehensive strategic review, a fundamental look at what were asking our forces to do, we won't be able to meet the Global Force Management Plan today. It will exacerbate our readiness trends. And if we have to go to a reduction of force structure, I am concerned about the industrial base.”
Video of the hearing is available here.