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Sequestration a serious concern for veterans

Featured in National Security
Sequestration a serious concern for veterans
Newly confirmed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, with Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter, on "sequestration day." (Photo by Craig Roberts)

The "abrupt and arbitrary" Pentagon spending cuts mandated by sequestration will have wide ranging and long term negative effects on readiness and will almost certainly impact veterans and their families. Those were among the messages communicated March 1 during a Pentagon news conference by newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter on "sequestration day."

Hagel began the news conference, his first since taking office earlier in the week, by talking of the dual uncertainty posed by sequestration and Congress’ Continuing Resolution — the stop gap measure that temporarily keeps government agencies operating in the absence of an adopted budget.

"This uncertainty puts at risk our ability to fulfill all of our missions," said Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran. "Over the past two months, DoD (Department of Defense) has begun to see the effects and consequences of that uncertainty. As sequester continues, we will be forced to assume more risks with steps that will progressively have far reaching effects.

"Let me highlight a couple of actions that we are taking as the result of these budget constraints. The Navy will gradually stand down at least four (air) wings. The first wing will stand down in April. Effective immediately, Air Force flying hours will be cut back. This will have a major impact on training and readiness. The Army will curtail training for all units except those deploying to Afghanistan, adversely impacting nearly 80 percent of Army operational units. Later this month, we intend to issue preliminary notifications to thousands of civilian employees who will be furloughed. These steps go on top of those the department began in January to slow spending in view of this uncertainty. Those included delaying deployment of Naval assets, imposing civilian hiring freezes, beginning to lay off temporary and term employees, sharply cutting back facilities maintenance and beginning reviews to delay contracts.

"If sequester continues and the Continuing Resolution is extended in its current form, other damaging effects will become apparent. Our number one concern is our people, military and civilian; the millions of men and women of this department who work very hard every day to insure America’s security. I know that these budget cuts will cause pain, particularly among our civilian work force and their families. I am also concerned, as we all are, about (sequestration’s) impact on readiness. For these reasons…senior leadership and I will continue to work with the administration and Congress to help resolve this uncertainty. I will do everything in my power to see that America upholds it commitment to our allies and our partners — and most importantly to our servicemembers and their families."

In his briefing, Hagel avoided the use of dramatic terms such as "devastating" and "catastrophic" as had been heard from his predecessor, Leon Panetta, and others in their warnings about sequestration’s effects. In contrast, Hagel ended his prepared remarks with a note of reassurance. "Today, America has the best fighting force in the world, capable of responding to any challenge," he said. "This unnecessary budget crisis makes that job much harder, but we will continue to assure America’s security."

After a little more than 10 minutes, which included the answering of a handful of reporters’ questions and reiterating the points made in his statement, Hagel retired from the press briefing room, surrendering the podium to Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Carter has been a Pentagon insider since the Clinton presidency and is a two-time recipient of the DoD’s Distinguished Service Award. His answers to reporters’ questions were more "nuts and bolts" and frank with talk of the real world, long term, readiness-robbing consequences of sequestration.

It was Carter who mentioned the "deleterious and not subtle" effects of sequestration on veterans and their families. "I think (that) the impacts are immediate on all three of the populations that we depend upon for our national defense," Carter said. "First, for the troops themselves, of course, the president has exempted the pay for military personnel from sequester…however, our military personnel will still feel things immediately."

As an example, Carter noted that military pilots whose training and operational flight times were to be cut back could not only suffer in proficiency but even lose the right to fly at all when unable to log requisite hours in the air. "That’s their duty, that’s their profession, that’s their responsibility for our national security," he said, "(and) they’re not going to be able to do that. They’ll feel that immediately.

"Second, (is) our civilian work force. Our civilian work force is about 800,000 strong. Those people, too, are dedicated to the defense mission. They live all over the country…86 percent of them live completely outside the Washington (D.C.) area; 44 percent of them are veterans. And, as the year goes on, many of them will be subject to furlough.

"Third, and finally (is) the contractor workforce that depends on us. We, in turn, depend on them. We don’t make anything here at the Pentagon. So, we depend upon the industrial base to make our weapons systems that, second only to our people…make us the greatest military in the world. Many of them will be affected very directly by this because we’ll be cutting back on contractor spending." A number of defense contracts under threat could be held, or intended for, veteran-owned small businesses.

At the conclusion of the press conference, Carter was asked what he would say to someone contemplating a civilian career with the military.

In response, Carter again noted that veterans comprise more than 40 percent of the defense department’s civilian work force and said, "I would hope that they will stick with us because of the mission because of what we do, which is to defend the country and help to make a better world."

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Valkyrie

March 16, 2013 - 5:47pm

Everyone is entitled to free speech in the US. We all know that. We also know that some abuse it. I thought the American Legion was above the abuse of free speech, especially when it harms others and promotes an atmosphere of hatred, ignorance, and intolerance. But sadly, I am mistaken. When the other day I heard members of my post speak of the President of United States as, "That damn nigger," and use offensive racial slurs about virtually every other group of people in our country, I felt disgusted, disappointed, and ashamed. Our post is open to the public, and others could hear it, nevermind the fact that it disgusted and angered myself and others present. What's worse, when I spoke to my post commander about this, as unbelievable as this may sound, he actually took the side of these bigots! He had the nerve to defend this practice, and even got angry at me for complaining about it. I had a visceral reaction to all this that literally made me sick, and I walked out, but not before I let him and the others know how I felt about it. I thought the American Legion stood for something far better than this! But I have found since I joined post 135 in Savannah, GA., that the post itself is being used as a kind of safe haven for those still stuck in the old Jim Crowe era; in other words, old angry men, full of hate, ignorance, and bigotry. What a shame! If you ask how many of our members are bigots, I would say roughly 1/2, and that's a conservative estimate, based one what I've overheard. This is why the Legion has so much trouble getting veterans of the younger generations to join. And this is why I will not come to anymore meetings, and will not continue my membership. Evil wins when good men do nothing. I encourage you all to stand up when you see and hear at your posts things you know are morally wrong. Not speaking against racism and bigotry when you seeand hear it is the same as condoning it. Good luck, and God bless.

Josue

March 14, 2013 - 11:04am

Is Hagel Defense Secretary or is he just a Democrat doing as the Pres. wants. No one and I repeat No one, including the President and Defense Secretary and Congress should take away from THE DEFENSE OF OUR COUNTRY. There are MANY places in Washington where money can be cut. LEAVE THE DEFENSE OF OUR COUNTRY ALONE!!!!!!

marksteuber

March 13, 2013 - 7:30am

I agree we need to impeach that so and so in the white house and drive him and his family out of DC altogether.

tlockhart51

March 11, 2013 - 12:37pm

Amen to that, brother. I'm so disgusted, I created a petition on causes to recall the whole sorry bunch, Senators, Representatives and the President (although I don't think we can actually recall him). Please visit the site and sign the petition.

GMBruning

March 11, 2013 - 8:04am

I fail to see how cutting an insignificant amount of increased spending can do anything but help resolve the issue of overspending in Washington. This country has lost track of the big picture. If more men and women asked what they could do for their country and not what the country is going to do for them we would have less entitlement programs and more action on the part of Americans. Washington needs to start with reducing their entitlements as government officials, stop sending our money anywhere overseas for foreign aid and focus on America once again. Obama has been the terrorist throughout this debacle and should be held accountable for his atrocious actions. I am for impeaching the lying SOB, firing all of our congressmen and senators and starting with a new group of individuals who have never been in politics or government. Our founding fathers had the right idea, we need to deregulate and return to the Constitution and Bill of Rights in their pristine original form!

USAF-Vet

March 10, 2013 - 3:52pm

Hundreds of millions of our tax dollars? F-16 fighters? All being supplied to Egypt, yet our pilots can't afford to fly for training and proficiency? What IS WRONG with this picture? Pure insanity and stupidity in D.C. SNAFU big time!!

VetSeaBee

March 8, 2013 - 2:53pm

The Whie House is orchestrating these scare tactics to feed the media and upset the citizens. If they would spend as much time trying to get a proper Budget in place as they are with this crap, everyone would be far better off. My hats off to Speaker Bahner for hold his ground finally. David H. Warren

schweizer40

March 8, 2013 - 3:16am

Amen to all of the above. Its about time us Veterans do something!

DHutt

March 7, 2013 - 7:44pm

If Hagel is so concerned about sequestration he needs to tell his new boss to get his head up where he can see things more clearly and get a meaningful budget on the tableiRsTdd. Cut all his handouts to those too lazy to work and there would be no need to make such drastic cuts in the Military budget.

AmentSgtInf

March 7, 2013 - 7:16pm

I have been a gunners mate in vietnam in the riverine forces, a Sgt of Infnatry in a leg unit in alaska for a total of 9.5 years of active duty. I also spent five years as a Defense civilian auditor (I have a BS in accounting and an MBA in contract management), The budget solution is not that complex IMPLEMENT the cost saving recommendations of the Air Force Audit service, Naval Audit service and Army Audit Agency. That should exceed the amount to be sequestered. As far as Defense Contractors go: mandate the Defense Contract Agency to verify the costs the major defense contractors are billing DOD their is fraud and waste in those contracts. For the smaller contractors insure their accounting systems track costs BEFORE you award any contract including fixed priced contracts (these often turn into cost contracts when an equitable claim is made). The smaller contractors often over estimate the value of the change order and have NO hard numbers to back up the claim because their accounting systems do not track costs appropriately.

Elffin

March 7, 2013 - 7:07pm

Impeachment does no good, Clinton was impeached and what effect did that do to his position? Just over three more years, unless the President declares martial law as an executive order declaring the nation is not able to pick a new leader because the electorial is not working in proper order.

fsuszka

March 7, 2013 - 5:10pm

Zoobie wrote: When will the impeachment begin? It won't. For one, the American people are satisfied with the way things are, too many people might lose out on the “free” cell phones “we” pay for and heaven forbid they should have to get out and get a job. I mean after all, do you want these people to get cold in the foul weather the nation is experiencing? You and I and many others know what’s going on but for those who voted for Obama they are blind to the facts of reality. They get up, go to work, come home and watch the news rake Republicans and conservatives through the mud and all is well. As long as you leave their wallets alone that is. Now that they have to pay more in payroll taxes maybe they will work harder.

rogerlippold

March 7, 2013 - 4:47pm

Sequestration is obama's way of keeping the 47% home and to get tyheir votes. The Rep have to balance the budget!! Obama hates ther Military he could have taken away some pizza coupons and kept the Aircraft Carriers operational. I wonder what he is going to say when a ICBM hits the US we don't have a defense he canceled that to.

ndguy1722

March 7, 2013 - 4:09pm

Sequestration is what is made of it. There was no cut to the budget, just a small decrease in the increase the Prez requested. Why is the DOD having this knee-jerk reaction? Also, the Prez was offered flexibility in choosing which departments in the DOD that would not receive the additional funds and he stated he would veto the bill from the House if it made it to his desk. Does anyone in Washington understand the word "impeachment"? Enough is enough.

Zoobie

March 7, 2013 - 4:08pm

And all of it comes from Political Posturing. A dictatorial president (?) who isn't even a citizen attempting to force a Socialist Agenda on the United States of America, in violation of The Constitution. WHEN WILL THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS BEGIN?!!!

CLCollins

March 7, 2013 - 5:48pm

I have been asking that question of impeachment/or treason charges(because of Benghazi) for some time now.

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