On Wednesday, the Defense Department released a report with a number of worst case scenarios based on cutbacks caused by the sequester’s automatic spending cuts, including reducing the Army to its smallest size since 2001, the Hill
The Pentagon said one scenario under consideration would pare the Army down from 490,00 to between 380,000 and 450,000 troops.
The Marine Corps would be reduced from 182,000 to between 150,00 to 175,000, and the number of aircraft carrier strike groups would fall from 11 to eight or nine.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that while our fighting forces would retain a significant edge when it comes to the technological aspect of defense, the reduction of boots on the ground would severely hamper our options of involvement.
“This strategic choice would result in a force that would be technologically dominant, but would be much smaller and able to go to fewer places and do fewer things,” Hagel said.
If the troop cuts come to pass, they would make it virtually impossible for the U.S. to wage two wars simultaneously, a significant break from past Pentagon strategy.
Another possible move would keep current troop numbers at their current levels, but end crucial weapons programs designed to replace several aging systems in the Pentagon’s arsenal.
The various reductions would be put in place to anticipate the $500 billion in spending cuts mandated by the sequester over the next decade.
The cuts began in March, and would reduce Pentagon spending by $52 billion next year.
Hagel urged Congress to do whatever it takes to guarantee these doomsday scenarios never see the light of day.
“It is the responsibility of our nation’s leadership to work together to replace the mindless and irresponsible policy of sequestration,” Hagel said.
House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith, D-Wash., echoed Hagel’s message, saying said that Congress was “abdicating its constitutional responsibility to responsibly fund the military” by permitting sequestration to continue.
“We are already on a path to significant deficit reductions,” Smith said.
“I am in favor of simply lifting sequestration and ceasing to impose these dramatic costs on our military.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., took a slightly different view of the report, saying it was a “budget-driven” exercise that didn’t address the underlying strategy issues.
McKeon agreed, however, that the report did drive home the reality that further cuts will “cause catastrophic readiness shortfalls.”
“We will lose our workforce and ability to recruit and retain the all volunteer force, and our influence around the world will continue to diminish,” McKeon said.
“Our enemies will feel emboldened, and this is precisely what I plan to address with [Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton] Carter tomorrow,” McKeon added, referencing a Thursday hearing on the Pentagon’s review.
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