WASHINGTON, May 12, 2014 - Uncertainty on the defense budget must end, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told North Carolina reporters over the weekend.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said that unless the situation changes, U.S. service members may be sent into harm's way inadequately prepared.
When reporters asked how the military can do more with less, the chairman said that is not his approach. "We really can't ask the kids to do more with less," he said. "We can do less with less, but not less well."
This, the chairman explained, means the military must take the resources available and apply them across the many accounts that demand resources, such as manpower, infrastructure, modernization, training and readiness.
"In the old cliché, it's really not rocket science," he said. "We have a pretty good understanding of how to balance our budget. If we're not able to balance it, then we run the risk of failing in our most sacred obligation, which is never sending a man or woman into harm's way unless they are the best-trained and best-equipped and best-led."
Each of the services made tough decisions in crafting the budget request, Dempsey said, noting that the request boils down to three things: certainty, flexibility and time.
"We need certainty -- we can't keep doing this one year at a time," he said. The lack of certainty is felt in North Carolina at places such as Fort Bragg, Pope Air Force Base and Camp Lejeune, he said.
Flexibility also is vital, Dempsey said. "We've got to be able to retire systems we no longer need or that can accomplish the mission in other ways," he added. "And we've got to be able to get rid of some excess infrastructure. We estimate that we have about 20 percent excess infrastructure in terms of bases, camps and stations."
And the military needs more time to adapt to the new fiscal climate, the chairman told reporters. "We've got to spread this out," he said. "To ask the department to reduce its budget by a trillion dollars over 10 years is extraordinarily irresponsible, frankly. If we go to the full level of the Budget Control Act, we will put the nation at unacceptable risk." The Budget Control Act requires sequestration-level spending cuts to resume in fiscal year 2016.
The cuts will ruin readiness, Dempsey said. "If they don't act this year on our recommendations for pay, compensation and health care, then the bill will be about $4 billion that will be passed back to the military and we will have to find within the budget $4 billion," the chairman said.
"When we are told we can't reduce infrastructure, we can't retire weapons systems, we can't change pay, compensation, health care, what's left ... is readiness and modernization," he continued. "So we are going to have to raid our readiness accounts and our modernization account."
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