Armageddon is upon us. At least in Washington budgetary terms. Barring a last-minute miracle, the supercommittee charged with cutting the deficit has predictably failed. That makes it more likely that the “sequestration” process will occur, with $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, half of them due to hit the defense budget. (The other half will hit domestic spending–but Social Security and Medicare, two of the biggest deficit-drivers, will be exempt.)
Senior defense leaders, including Leon Panetta, himself a longstanding budget hawk, have warned the consequences of such cuts would be “devastating” and “catastrophic.” Some on the left purport to claim that cuts on this scale–after Congress already cut $450 billion from defense this summer–will not seriously affect the Defense Department’s capabilities. They could not be more wrong–as this fact sheet from the Foreign Policy Initiative makes clear.
It points out that a trillion dollars of defense cuts will lead to the cancellation of vital procurement programs and the dismissal of tens of thousands of service personnel, raising the specter of a “hollow” force and throwing into grave doubts the armed forces’ ability to meet America’s global defense commitments. As Leon Panetta said last month:
It’s a ship without sailors. It’s a brigade without bullets. It’s an air wing without enough trained pilots. It’s a paper tiger, an Army of barracks, buildings and bombs without enough trained soldiers able to accomplish the mission. It’s a force that suffers low morale, poor readiness and is unable to keep up with potential adversaries. In effect, it invites aggression.
It is not too late to avert such an outcome; in fact, since the cuts will not go into effect until fiscal year 2013, lawmakers will have much of next year to hash out out an alternative. But it will take leadership from Congress and the White House to head off this disaster. Alas, based on the evidence of the past few years, such leadership may be more than we can expect from Washington these days.