Carter: Sequestration Will Make the U.S. Less Secure
By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, March 18, 2015 – The proposed defense budget is in line with fiscal year 2015 projections, halting the decline in defense spending and making available the resources needed to execute the nation's defense strategy, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a House panel here today.
Carter and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified this morning before the House Armed Services Committee, whose members include 23 veterans.
The president is requesting a defense budget for fiscal year 2016 that is $36 billion above the caps, or sequester levels, of the Budget Control Act, Carter said.
"And as the chairman noted," he told the panel, "strategy comes first and that's the appropriate way to think about the budget. But -– and I want to be clear about this –- under sequestration, which is set to return in 197 days, our nation would be less secure."
AUMF and the 2016 Budget Request
The hearing focused on the authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, and the fiscal 2016 budget request from the Defense Department.
On the AUMF, Carter said two things -- flexibility and wide-spread support -- are important for him as secretary of defense.
"One is that it gives us the flexibility to carry out our campaign," he added, "but the other is that it is passed up here on Capitol Hill in a way that says very clearly to our men and women who are conducting the campaign against ISIL that the country is behind them."
On the AUMF provisions, the secretary said the authorization doesn't try to say everything that is permitted. Instead, it wisely gives DoD leaders the flexibility to conduct the campaign against ISIL the way that defeating that enemy requires.
Changing the Shape of the Military
The authorization's language does rule out an Iraq- or Afghanistan-type long period of offensive combat operations, and that helps military leaders practically and geographically, Carter added, "because we don't foresee having to conduct another campaign like Iraq or Afghanistan."
On sequestration, Carter said that if the department is confronted with sequestration-level budgets and continued obstacles to reform, it can't simply keep making incremental cuts.
"We would have to change the shape, and not just the size, of our military, significantly impacting parts of our defense strategy," he added.
On the Table
Carter told the panel that as secretary, "I will not send troops into a fight with outdated equipment, inadequate readiness or ineffective doctrine. But everything else is on the table -- including parts of our budget that have long been considered inviolate."
By that, he said in written testimony, he means the department could be forced to consider pay cuts, not just cuts in the growth of compensation.
"We could be forced to consider all means of shedding excess infrastructure, not just working within the congressional [Base Realignment and Closure] process. We could be forced to look at significant force structure cuts, not just trimming around the edges," the secretary explained.
And the department could be forced to ask the military services to do and be prepared to do significantly less than what traditionally has been expected and required of them, he said.
"This may lead to decisions that no Americans, including members of Congress, want us to make," Carter added.
Focus on Modernization
What makes the fiscal year 2016 budget different from others over the past decade, he said in written testimony, is the focus it puts on new funding for modernization.
"After years of war, which required the deferral of longer-term modernization investments, this budget puts renewed emphasis on preparing for future threats, especially threats that challenge our military's power projection capabilities," he said.
The capability to rapidly surge aircraft, ships, troops and supplies, projecting power anywhere across the globe, Carter added, lies at the core of the defense strategy and what the American people have come to expect of their military.
"It guarantees that when an acute crisis erupts anywhere in the world, America can provide aid when disaster strikes, reinforce our allies when they are threatened, and protect our citizens and interests globally," he said.
Freedom of Navigation
Power projection capability also assures freedom of navigation and overflight, and allows global commerce to flow freely, the secretary added.
For decades, he said, U.S. global power projection has relied on the ships, planes, submarines, bases, aircraft carriers, satellites, networks and other advanced capabilities that comprise the military's technological edge.
"Today that superiority is being challenged in unprecedented ways," Carter said.
Advanced military technologies, from rockets and drones to chemical and biological capabilities, are finding their way into the arsenals of nonstate actors and previously less-capable militaries, he noted.
Closing the Technology Gap
"Other nations, among them Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, have been pursuing long-term, comprehensive military modernization programs to close the technology gap that has long existed between them and the United States," the secretary noted.
Such modernization programs are developing and fielding advanced aircraft, submarines and longer-range and more accurate ballistic and cruise missiles, he said, and they're developing new and advanced anti-ship and anti-air missiles, and new counterspace, cyber, electronic warfare, undersea, and air attack capabilities.
"One of the reasons we are asking for more money this year than last year is to reverse recent underinvestment in new weapons systems by making targeted investments to help us stay ahead of emerging threats," he said.
The investments include "adding substantial funding for space control and launch capabilities, missile defense, cyber, and advanced sensors, communications and munitions, all of which are critical for power projection in contested environments," the secretary said.
Budget in Perspective
Carter encouraged the panel to keep the department's budget in perspective as they and their colleagues in Congress evaluate the president's budget submission.
In the years since the fiscal 2012 budget request, the benchmark for cuts prescribed under the 2011 Budget Control Act, he said, DoD's 10-year budget projections have absorbed more than $750 billion in cuts, or more than three-quarters of the trillion-dollar cuts that would be required if sequestration is allowed to run its course.
"While some claim this is our biggest budget ever," the secretary added, "the fact is that as a share of total federal spending, DoD's fiscal year 2016 budget is at a near-historic low, representing about 14 percent of total federal discretionary and nondiscretionary outlays."
The department's total budget remains more than $100 billion below what it was at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
"I think we can all agree that the world in 2014 was even more complicated than we could have foreseen," Carter added.
"Given today's security environment, which has over 200,000 American service members stationed in over 130 countries conducting nearly 60 named operations," he told the panel, "our proposed increase in defense spending over last year's budget is a responsible, prudent approach."
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