U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno shocked many Tuesday when he stated that just two Army brigades were currently combat-ready as a result of the financial toll taken by sequestration and other cuts in military spending, but a retired U.S. Air Force general says severe problems can be seen throughout all service branches.
"The Air Force, at one time, grounded a third of all their squadrons because of the cost savings driven by sequestration. That means their readiness is declining in almost dramatic terms," said retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Tom McInerney, who served as both assistant vice chief of staff and commander in chief of U.S. Air Forces Europe during his time in uniform.
"The Navy is cutting down their steaming hours or flying hours and the Marine Corps the same thing," he told WND. "They're all about a third in decreased readiness, which permeates the whole force and you atrophy gradually. Without a doubt, the sequestration has had a huge impact, negative impact, on U.S. military readiness."
Sequestration was the default result of the 2011 Budget Control Act that was passed to resolve that summer's debt-ceiling showdown. Lawmakers were supposed to come up with areas to trim spending but failed to reach any consensus. As a result, sequestration kicked in, with President Obama and Democrats demanding half of the cuts come from military spending in exchange for some trimming in entitlement spending. The military's sequestration cuts followed closely on the heels of another major drop in funding. The combination of actual cuts and reductions in planned spending increases totals roughly $1 trillion over 10 years.
The Defense Department, like all government agencies, have been known for extravagant spending at times, but McInerney said the rules of sequestration prevent officials from prioritizing the spending reductions, so critical programs are suffering.
"It doesn't give the Department of Defense the reprogramming authority that they would like, so much of it cuts across the board. It's a straight-line salami slice. If you're able to go into certain areas where you can delay certain modernization or do certain things, that enables them to keep their readiness up. They don't have that tool right now, but that's what they need," he said.
If the military cuts from sequestration are not restored, McInerney warned that readiness will be at historically low levels.
"We will have the least ready military since the end of World War II, the 1948-49 time period," he explained. "We (also) had that drop-down under President Carter, but this will go below the Carter readiness problems. This administration will have the lowest since 1948."
But McInerney asserted that even at today's readiness levels, our national security is compromised.
"We're extremely vulnerable. Look what's going on in Syria. Look what's going on in the Middle East. The Saudis are breaking diplomatic relations with us," said McInerney, who contends the Obama administration is standing by while Russia and Iran are running roughshod throughout the Middle East.
"We are doing all the wrong things. We are not helping Gen. al-Sisi in Egypt. That's one of the reasons why the Saudi Arabians, who are really one of our closest and most influential allies in the region, have just broken off diplomatic relations. Our military readiness is having an impact on that. We do not have the influence, let alone the diplomacy, to carry the leadership role that we should be carrying," said McInerney, who noted that adversarial nations are keenly aware of our weakened position right now.
"Our enemies see that so they are just being emboldened. That's one of the dangerous things that's going on, and it's going to have very far-reaching repercussions."
The general says the smart thing for the government to do would be to replace the military funds cut by sequestration and start providing help to places like Egypt. However, he doesn't expect the cuts to be reversed anytime soon because the other half of the equation would require some entitlement reform and he doesn't believe the Obama administration is serious about addressing that.
"I don't see sequestration going away until the administration is willing to get into the entitlement area and start going into those areas, which are all going broke as it is, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and all that. The administration has not been willing to make what I think are balanced cuts, because in the final analysis they're going to go broke anyhow," said McInerney.