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WASHINGTON – Members of Congress today were told by the U.S. military that the impact of President Obama’s sequester plan – scheduled to take effect tomorrow – would be a combination of undone repairs, missing modernization, absent deployments and failed readiness.
The testimony came before the House Armed Services Committee from Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.
First impacted would be “forward operations,” which means deployments and operations in “real time,” Stackley said. He noted the construction of new weapons, such as the new aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy and other new submarine programs, are being idled.
Vice Admiral Allen G. Myers, deputy chief of naval operations for the integration of capabilities and resources, echoed a similar concern.
“We will be forced to dramatically reduce our fleet size,” he said.
He added that the cuts would inhibit “forward operations” and “rescue” and “humanitarian and disaster relief.”
On a more technical level, he described how the “readiness for the Navy will erode,” pointing out 327 aircraft will not receive needed repairs or upgrades, resulting in “fewer aircraft in our fleets.”
Secondly, Stackley elaborated, is the “procurement of weapons systems.” The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, for example, is sitting in port in Newport News, Va., where due to “lack of funds,” it cannot be fueled for deployment.
Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler, deputy commandant for programs and resources, U.S. Marine Corps, said “the USMC is the United States’ insurance policy … and we are reducing our insurance policy.”
The sequestration, he said, “affects readiness to respond.”
Thirdly, Stackley said, the “modernization” that “ensures our military superiority” would be compromised.
“It was never supposed to happen, and much could have been done to avoid it,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio. “The picture is bleak” when looking at the effects on men and women in uniform.
Lt. Gen. Charles R. Davis, military deputy, office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, believes the cuts would have an “insidious” impact on Air Force modernization, describing both America’s air fleet and many components of its nuclear deterrent as “aging.”
Sequestration cuts would inhibit future development and enhancement of these systems, he said.
Davis said more specifically that “20-30 percent” of the modernization budget would suffer as a result of the automatic cuts.
In addition to lagging technological modernization, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Ga., was especially concerned about the status of America’s “nuclear modernization.”
In an era in which the Russians are “modernizing and innovating in the field of nuclear weapon development,” the U.S. does not “have the funding to take us beyond 2020,” he said.
Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said the cuts would act as “a huge rippling effect that will happen” through all branches affecting everyone and that the “impacts will be felt long after this fiscal year.”
Asked by U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., how long it would take the military to recover from cuts, Shyu said she didn’t know, but budgeting would have to be “reworked” as a consequence.
Barber said “this uncertainty” causes “a morale problem in the military and the economy.”
In addition to spending cuts, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., was “appalled” at the amount of money “lost to waste and fraud.” She criticized the plan to cut pay and jobs for those serving while allowing wasteful spending to continue.
“Money is tight and we have to go after the fraud and abuse,” she declared, while also citing the lagging development of American military technology.
She wondered how many Black Hawk helicopters are still in the alpha stage of development and will not be improved.
Stackley also described the effects sequestration would have on small businesses that work with the military, saying they are under threat of being “taken down” by “cancellation of contracts.”
According to the American Enterprise Institute, “America’s shipbuilding, aerospace and defense manufacturing workforce employs more than one million people directly.”
Davis, the assistance Air Force secretary, said the “first thing that gets hit is our small business and then readiness.”
“The details of small businesses working with the military includes the purchasing of office supplies, to construction, to base repairs and even beautification work,” he said.