Defending Defense: Don't Just Delay Defense Sequestration—Stop It
By delaying defense sequestration two months, President Obama and Congress have shown their unambiguous recognition that sequestration’s automatic and indiscriminate cuts to the U.S. military pose clear dangers to national security. However, America’s leaders must now match their recognition of this reality with the resolve required to definitively stop defense sequestration. Otherwise, they will end up throwing the military’s servicemen and servicewomen off the fiscal cliff—and the nation off a strategic cliff.
Even though the United States remains a nation at war, the military still faces the looming threat of sequestration’s across-the-board cuts of $500 billion over the next decade. What’s worse, these massive reductions will come on top of the more than $800 billion already cut from previously-planned defense spending over the last four years, including the $487 billion that President Obama just cut from long-term defense spending in February 2012.
Defense sequestration will fundamentally alter America’s strategic posture in the world, its capacity to keep the peace, and its ability to sustain its existing security commitments to allies and partners. As General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has pointedly noted, “Anything beyond [existing cuts], we have to go back to the drawing board on the strategy.” Sequestration also undermines our implied commitment to the men and women who volunteer to serve in our armed services and put their lives on the line—but who do so believing they will have the best weapons, the most advanced training, and sufficient numbers to dominate in any conflict. By only delaying and not halting these cuts, Congress and the President have made it difficult for the military to adequately plan and make appropriate budgeting and programmatic decisions given ongoing uncertainty about FY 2013 funding levels. And, finally, sequestration will have a devastating impact on the country’s defense industrial base by forcing both the sacking of large numbers of highly-skilled and experienced workers, and a decade’s long drawdown in resources applied to research and development programs that sustain America’s military technological edge.
In sum, sequestration increases the long-term risks to our nation’s security and prosperity in a world that is only becoming increasingly complex and dangerous. The U.S. military’s servicemen and servicewomen—and the American people—deserve better. It’s long past time for President Obama and Congress not just to delay defense sequestration, but to stop it, once and for all.
The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.