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A return to sequestration cuts to defense budgets in FY2016 and beyond “would leave our military unbalanced and eventually too small to meet the needs of our strategy fully,” according to the DoD report “Estimated Impacts of Sequestration-Level Funding” released this week. The report describes the reductions that would be necessary if sequestration were re-implemented in FY2016.
The FY2015 DoD budget included in the FY2015-19 Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), released last month, conforms to the funding limit set in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. However, for FY2016-19, the DoD budget plan sets total funding $115 billion higher than the levels set in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which reflects automatic sequestration cuts.
The DoD report details the force reductions and modernization and readiness cuts that DoD would have to make if Congress did not act to alleviate sequestration.
In the absence of congressional changes to required future sequestration cuts, the report shows that Army funding would be cut by $26 billion from FY2016 through FY2019, Navy and Marine Corps by $35 billion, Air Force by $36 billion, and Defensewide accounts by $18 billion. Looking at the impact by major appropriation, operations and maintenance (O&M) funding would be cut by $40 billion, procurement by $48 billion, and research and development by $18 billion.
Returning to sequester-level budgets would require additional cuts to the active and reserve force, according to the report. The Army would be forced to cut its active force to 420,000 by 2019 rather than to 440,000 or 450,000 as specified in the FY2015-19 budget plan. The Army Guard and Reserve forces would have to decline to 315,000 and 185,000, respectively, rather than the 335,000 and 195,000 levels currently planned. The Marine Corps would have to draw down to 175,000 rather than the 182,000 in the budget plan.
The report also lays out the effect on modernization under a return to sequestration. Among major programs affected: the Army would not be able to fund the Stryker fourth brigade set, would buy 61 fewer Blackhawk aircraft, and would cut Apache remanufacture investments by $1.2 billion; the Navy would forgo buying eight ships (including three DSDG-51 destroyers and one Virginia-class submarine); and the Air Force would retire its KC-10 tanker fleet, one F-35 squadron (15 aircraft), and the Global Hawk Block 40 fleet.
The report emphasizes that readiness funding would have to be cut by $16 billion, including $9 billion in depot/ship maintenance. In addition, facilities sustainment, restoration, and modernization (FSRM) funding would be $7 billion lower and installation services funding would be cut by about $5 billion. All other O&M funding would be down $12 billion.
This report reinforces the message being stressed at every opportunity by DoD military and civilian leaders. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has repeatedly warned Congress that a return to sequestration in FY2016 would mean increased risks to U.S. security. Last month he told the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee that “under a return to sequestration spending levels, risks would grow significantly, particularly if our military is required to respond to multiple major contingencies at the same time.”
Today, the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) approved FY2015 funding for Military Construction (included in the total Department of Defense (DoD) budget request) and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The MilCon/VA bill is the first appropriations bill to advance in the House. At the MilCon/VA Subcommittee markup last week, HAC chair Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) said his goal is to “have all of the bills through the [House] full committee by July 4th.” Rogers acknowledged that is a very ambitious schedule. Last year, the HAC had completed action on only seven of the 12 FY2015 appropriations bills by July 4th.
The Military Construction portion of the MilCon/VA bill provides $6.557 billion for military construction projects, family housing, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), the NATO Security Investment Program, and Chemical Demilitarization construction. This amount is equal to the president’s FY2015 request, but $3.3 billion lower than the FY2014 enacted level.
The HAC bill reduces the DoD funding request for active component military construction projects by $165 million, but fully funds the request for reserve components military construction projects, and for the NATO Security Investment Program (NSIP), Family Housing, Chemical Demilitarization, and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). The HAC bill takes no action on DoD’s proposal for another BRAC round in 2017.
The bill also provides an additional $125 million for construction projects that were previously authorized in the FY2014 Defense Authorization Act. This funding would go to projects for Navy and Marine Corps and Air Force active components and for Army and Navy reserve components. The bill also adds another $245 billion for the Army National Guard and Reserves the Army identified if the funds were authorized in the FY2015 Defense Authorization bill.
To offset some of this additional funding and bring the total bill in line with the president’s request, the HAC bill rescinds $204.6 million from prior appropriations Acts.