The Pentagon's new strategic guidance and fiscal year 2013 budget request avoid major disruptions to current U.S. defense plans, but they make only a down payment on the defense budget cuts that may eventually be imposed through sequestration, argues Travis Sharp, CNAS Bacevich Fellow, in Down Payment: Defense Guidance, 2013 Defense Budget and the Risks of Sequestration.
In Down Payment, released today by the Center for a New American Security, Sharp concludes that Congress should pass bipartisan legislation to repeal sequestration as soon as possible, and President Obama should sign it. "The sudden and inflexible process for implementing cuts under sequestration will unnecessarily damage U.S. defense capabilities," he argues, emphasizing that sequestration is an irresponsible way to reduce defense spending that will make it difficult for the U.S. military to pursue its longstanding and generally successful strategy of global engagement. In a perverse twist, the guidance and budget may have made sequestration more likely because they did not propose major cuts to military force structure that might have spurred opposition from members of Congress. "It would be unfortunate if DOD's reward for preparing responsible plans for an age of austerity was additional austerity imposed through sequestration, a truly flawed policy," he writes.
In addition to the risks of sequestration, Sharp highlights the impact of the 2013 defense budget on the U.S. military. The budget prioritizes naval and air forces and accepts risk by cutting ground forces. While this approach makes sense in the emerging strategic and fiscal environment, he argues, it will create challenges for the ground forces. "Downsizing 72,000 soldiers and 20,000 Marines in just five years will require the U.S. military to release service members, some via involuntary separations, into a troubled domestic economy while still conducting intense military operations in Afghanistan," writes Sharp.
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