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Commentary: Investing in a Joint Force Can Trump Sequester, Protect America

Norton Schwartz, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, writes in Roll Call: The sequester’s automatic, across-the-board budget cuts have hit the Defense Department hard since they went into effect in March, taking $50 billion out of the Pentagon on top of earlier cuts made by the Obama administration. For the Air Force — the service I led for four years — the consequences of these cuts have included having to ground squadrons temporarily, cut training hours for pilots and crews, defer billions of dollars in maintenance, and even investigate the possibility of retiring entire fleets of tanker and attack aircraft.

Other services have been forced to take similarly extreme measures, including keeping Navy ships in port and cutting back on training for Army soldiers. Despite these grim realities, our political leaders are no closer to ending the sequester than they were a year ago. Holding out hope for a deal to end the sequester will only continue the automatic cuts that have harmed our armed forces’ readiness and our national security.

I recently joined with a committee of civilian and military experts, organized by the Henry L. Stimson Center and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, who agreed that our leaders should make strategic choices to provide for our national security within the limits imposed by the sequester.

Rather than cutting all Pentagon programs equally, we advocate targeting cuts to the most inefficient, least effective and least necessary programs. This would allow more money to be spent on vital programs necessary to protect our nation and ensure our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have the weapons, equipment and other resources they need.

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