The next commander in chief will be handed a weakened and smaller U.S. military if draconian defense cuts are not curbed or ended, a panel of security experts said June 11.
Michèle Flournoy, a senior fellow for the Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and former undersecretary of defense for Policy, said the military would be sliding into crisis in fiscal 2017 if sequestration still was in play.
“If defense spending does return to sequester levels, the next president [who will be elected in 2016] will come into office with severely constrained resources,” she said during remarks as part the “Strategic Risk and Military Power: A Briefing to the Next President” panel discussion at The Center for New American Security’s Eighth Annual National Security Conference.
Sequestration went into effect in March 2012 and was slated to last a decade — with the Department of Defense (DoD) forced to cut around $50 billion per year in addition to cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 eased the top-line sequester numbers for two years, through fiscal 2015. The full sequester cuts will return in fiscal 2016 unless Congress acts to modify or eliminate them.
Flournoy said the military would be significantly smaller under the full sequester, noting that the U.S. Navy would shrink to under 320,000 active-duty personnel and have a fleet of 260 ships. Today, the Navy stands at more than 323,000 active-duty personnel and has a battle force of 288 ships.