Military leaders paint grim picture as defense budget cuts loom


The nation’s military leaders yesterday painted a bleak and sometimes cataclysmic picture of what will happen if planned, across-the-board cuts to Defense programs go into effect March 1.

Defense leaders told a House panel that if the first installment of some $500 billion in cuts to defense over the next decade goes through next month, hundreds of thousands of civilian employees — including 13,000 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — will face up to 22 days of furlough. Air Force flight hours will be dialed back. Navy ships in need of maintenance will have to do without. Defense contractors — including many in the Dayton region — may see business plummet.

“These cuts will be felt across the entire country,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno.

In 2011, President Barack Obama and Congress agreed to cut $1.2 trillion from the budget over the next decade in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, with half being absorbed by Defense programs. If the cuts go through, Defense programs will see $46 billion in cuts over the next seven months alone.

The cuts, said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “will upend our defense strategy, will put our nation at greater risk of coercion and will require us to break our commitment to our men and women in uniform and their families, to the defense industrial base and to our friends and allies.

The testimony was the second that the group of defense leaders have offered; they were at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

But while senators were largely supportive, the group got more of a challenge from House members, including some who said defense leaders held out details of the impact of the cuts for too long.

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, pointed out that the House has passed three bills aimed at avoiding the budget cuts to Defense. “We passed three plans that not a dollar would be asked of DoD,” he said, urging the military leaders to prod Obama to urge a vote on those plans.

“We would appreciate if the president would ask the Senate to take a vote on our three proposals,” he said.

You can watch Turner’s questioning of military leaders here.

In Ohio, the cuts will be felt hardest at Wright-Patterson, the state’s largest single-site employer.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III said the Air Force will have to absorb $12.4 billion in budget cuts over the next seven months that will affect “every account, every program.” Up to 180,000 civilian airmen will see 22 days of furlough, he said, resulting in a loss of 31.5 million lost hours of productivity.

The Air Force will also see 200,000 fewer flying hours, meaning that airmen who aren’t flying in Afghanistan and war zones will see their training drop below acceptable readiness levels by mid-May and be incapable of flying missions by mid-July. Add to that a halt of maintenance of Air Force equipment, which will result in a backlog that the Air Force will wrestle with for the future.

Welsh said the Air Force had already been forced to cut back on full spectrum training and “we are trying to recover that.” The lack of readiness, he said, will show.

“When the next major conflict starts we will send our joint force to fight regardless of how ready they are,” he said. “And they will go and they will fight and they will die in greater numbers than they have to.

“We owe them better than that.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Military

Furloughed Wright Patt workers will be paid
Furloughed Wright Patt workers will be paid

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base furloughed about 8,600 civil service employees during a short-lived federal government closure, the most at the state’s largest single-site employer since a shutdown last struck less than five years ago. Federal employees who were furloughed or who worked during a three-day partial federal government closure Saturday...
GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: What we know about Wright Patt
GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: What we know about Wright Patt

U.S. lawmakers are in session today but no deal is in sight to prevent an extended government shutdown. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force closed Saturday and other local governmental institutions, including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, will be closed Monday as Republicans and Democrats have failed to reach a deal to fund governmental operations...
Shutdown: Uncertainty plagues civil servants, WPAFB workers, businesses
Shutdown: Uncertainty plagues civil servants, WPAFB workers, businesses

Employees at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will report to work on Monday for further instructions. On Main Street in downtown Fairborn Saturday night there were a lot of questions about the partial shutdown, from workers who may be at risk of furlough to businesses those workers visit. “It’s definitely uncertainty,” Casey Hudson...
Wright Patt’s Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine marks 100th
Wright Patt’s Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine marks 100th

Filled with life-like medical mannequins, dark cargo plane fuselages and a centrifuge that spins humans in circles at high speed, the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine is unlike most schools. One of the biggest prizes gained at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in recent years, the school marked its 100th anniversary in ceremonies Friday. The $194...
Threat of government shutdown wearing on workers
Threat of government shutdown wearing on workers

The specter of a partial federal government shutdown looms at midnight Friday, but many federal employees feel “immune” to the threat of being sent home in a repeated cycle of last-minute stopgap spending measures to avert a shutdown, union leaders say. “I think employees are actually getting immune to it,” said Troy Tingey...
More Stories