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Forbes: Sequester Would Cripple Security

Before the Budget Control Act was passed in August, the act of being sequestered would have typically referred to a jury in a public trial that has been isolated to avoid being prejudiced by media coverage.

Unfortunately, the U.S. military’s ability to provide national security is what is going to be isolated if $500 billion worth of defense cuts are allowed to be triggered by the end of the year.

This sequestration refers to the Budget Control Act’s mechanism that is scheduled to cut $500 billion in defense spending, in addition to the
$487 billion that has already been triggered over the next 10 years. I voted against these cuts then, just as I am fighting them now.

This will have a crippling effect on our nation’s armed forces, specifically the ability to provide our national security. But don’t take my word for it; listen to what our nation’s military leaders have to say.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that the cuts would be “catastrophic” to our nation’s military and that by allowing the cuts to go through, “we’d be shooting ourselves in the head.”

“Sequestration would pose unacceptable risk,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Army and Marine Corps would have to pink slip about 225,000 soldiers, more than the size of the entire Marine Corps. What does this number mean for our national security? Gen. Joseph Dunford, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, put it in stark terms when he testified that the Marine Corps “would not have adequate capabilities or capacities to meet a single major contingency operation.”

The Navy would have to cut the equivalent of its entire ship-building budget, putting the fleet on a glide path to 240 ships, or just half of what Navy leaders say we need to meet our combatant commander’s demands. For its part, the Air Force is now at its smallest size in more than six decades, and it is only going to shrink further.

A decade ago, the RAND Corp. determined that in a conflict over Taiwan, the U.S. would prevail. But now that calculation has changed so much that a 2009 study by RAND concluded that China’s growing capabilities and other factors now “call into question” Washington’s ability to prevail in an air conflict with China.

What is so troubling is the way in which these cuts were initiated. If there were an administration that wanted to dismantle our military, we would expect the reason to be that our military capabilities exceed our requirements for national security. In order to make that assessment, they would first conduct a strategic risk assessment and then make a blueprint for the military that we need to meet those challenges and fund it appropriately. The Constitution states in the preamble that a defining role of government is to “provide for the common defense.”

This administration has gone a different route. It has decided what it would like to spend on defense and then rolled the dice to figure out what kind of military that buys it. This comes at a time when we are still actively fighting a war in Afghanistan and the administration has stated the need to rebalance its forces toward the Pacific and China. This simply does not add up. We cannot address emerging threats from China, Iran and North Korea with a drastically reduced military.

When Congress passed the Budget Control Act, these defense cuts were an afterthought. There was no predecision analysis that our country needed less national security. It was a last-minute deal to solve the debt ceiling crisis. Congress played chicken with our national security, and that game clock is winding down until
Jan. 2, when the clock runs out on our nation’s armed services.

To better understand the effect of these cuts, we are starting a series of listening sessions around the country called “Defending Our Defenders.” The first stop was May 14 in Chesapeake, Va., followed by events in San Diego on Tuesday and Pensacola, Fla., on Thursday. For more information, visit

I intend to hear from citizens, veterans and industry leaders to see what the effects of these cuts will mean for them and ask them if this is what they want our military to look like. The time has never been more important for the people who protect you. Join us.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) is chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on  Readiness.

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