General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before a Senate committee Wednesday alongside Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that dramatic cuts to be enacted in military spending could lead the country to war. The budget cuts, known as sequestration, will go into effect in January unless Congress intervenes. The cuts are set to be enacted due to Congressional inability to come to an agreement on deficit reduction as part of the debt ceiling debate last year.
Dempsey warned that the cuts will lead to the abandonment of global weapons systems and mark major disruptions to global operations leading American adversaries to feel emboldened to test American military might.
Dempsey told the hearing,
“We can’t yet say precisely how bad the damage would be, but it is clear that sequestration would risk hollowing out our force and reducing its military options available to the nation. We would go from being unquestionably powerful everywhere to being less visibly globally and presenting less of an overmatch to our adversaries, and that would translate into a different deterrent calculus and potentially, therefore, increase the likelihood of conflict.”
Defense Secretary Panetta basically said the same thing last year when asked about the cuts.
The Pentagon would face cuts of about $992 billion dollars in spending over the next ten years as a result of sequestration and the debt deal Obama made last summer.
Sen. Daniel Inouye Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, called the description “candid but frightening.”.
Panetta said that the cuts that will have to be made to civilian contractors as a result of the cuts will lead to a 1% rise in the national unemployment rate which already stands at 8.2%
Panetta commented on the reason for the automatic cuts in the first place saying,
“It was designed as a meat ax. It was designed to be a disaster. Because the hope was, because it’s such a disaster, that Congress would respond and do what was right. And so I’m just here to tell you, yes, it would be a disaster. In reversing difficult decisions and restoring funds to those areas that achieve necessary savings, Congress risks upending the careful balance we sought to achieve in our strategy. There’s no free lunch here. Every low-priority program or overhead cost that is retained will have to be offset in cuts in higher-priority investments in order to comply with last year’s budget agreement.”
This was the original fear when the debt ceiling deal was made last year. Congress would enact the painful spending cuts the nation needs in order to get priority legislation passed but then just vote later to restore the funding without fear of immediate political consequences.