The leader of the nation’s military intelligence agency toured the National Air and Space Intelligence Center to learn more about the secretive center’s missions, and how massive defense cuts might impact capabilities officials said are vital to national security.
Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Defense Intelligence Agency director, and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, visited NASIC on Monday as debate in Washington, D.C., swirls over the possibility of automatic, across-the-board defense spending reductions that could be triggered March 1. Without a deal between Congress and President Barack Obama to avert the cuts, the reductions would amount to nearly $500 billion over a decade in addition to $487 billion in cuts already planned to defense spending.
Flynn, a three-star Army general, became DIA director in July. The visit marked his first to NASIC.
“This is one of our crown jewels,” he told reporters a press conference at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “It’s one of our really, really vital components of our national security structure.”
The DIA has about 17,000 military and civilian personnel around the globe. NASIC, which receives about half its funding from the DIA, employs more than 3,000 people at Wright-Patterson.
NASIC provides intelligence analysis to, among others, soldiers in combat and the Pentagon, and to congressional leaders and the White House.
Flynn said senior Department of Defense and intelligence leaders have voiced concerns about impending spending cuts.
“We have been very clear about some of the impact and some of the effects we are likely to see across the board, and when we look at capabilities that are present here we have to be really, really smart about what it is that we have to protect as national capabilities.” he said. “… Everybody has to understand the impacts on any decisions that we make about some of the difficult fiscal issues that we’re going to be dealing with here in the next few months.”
Officials could not say how spending reductions could impact NASIC, but the Department of Defense has said furloughs of most of its 800,000 civilian employees are possible under a budget sequester. “Those are I know things that have been discussed, but at this stage, it’s really too early for us to say,” Flynn said.
Turner, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he has “voted against the mess that results in sequestration.”
“Even the president of the United States has said they were never supposed to occur but yet we’re faced with these cuts occurring March 1,” he said. “The general certainly, even more than others, is able to express how wrong this is as a policy approach. To go to a budget in our military and to take a hatchet across the top as opposed to even just looking at programmatic goals and objectives is absolutely wrong and it needs to be averted.”
The Pentagon recently ordered the service branches to detail by this month a plan that explains how sequestration would impact the military. “Up to this point, we’ve not had any specifics that have been available for Congress to look at,” Turner said.
“As we look to 10 percent across the board (sequestration cuts), the effects can be much greater than merely a 10 percent reduction because there’s some things you can’t do 90 percent of,” he said. “We’re very concerned what the effects might be as you look to the functions of Wright-Patt, both at NASIC and across the board.”