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Sequester has much hit at the Pentagon

22.04.2013 12:59

The U.S. Presidential Administration failed to reach an agreement with Congress, as a result of which B.Obama on March 1 had to sign a decree on compulsory public spending cuts. By October 1, 2013, when the current financial year ends, the governmental structures must cut budget expenses by 85 billion, of which more than half will be done by reductions in funding of the department of defense.

Although this amount is only 2 percent of the total U.S. budget, the consequences for the economy may be very noticeable. However, besides economic impact, the American experts with ever increasing frequency declare the reduction of combat readiness of the U.S. armed forces that sequester did not pass by either.

The U.S. leading politicians have repeatedly warned that the drastic reduction of the defense budget may affect the combat readiness of the armed forces and lead to massive layoffs in the defense industry. This downsizing was an unexpected by-product of the struggle with the US state government debt.

At the recent negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on raising the national debt limit, it was decided that in case the parties fail to agree on the reduction of specific budget items by US$ 1.2 trillion, then each and all items of expenditure will be proportionally reduced i.e. sequestered. With regard to the Pentagon, this means that, beginning with January 1, 2013 and over the next decade, the defense budget will be reduced annually by 55 billion dollars. It is in addition to the cuts in defense spending by 487 billion calculated for over 10 years and already approved, which will be implemented primarily by curtailing of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senators expressed concern that the sequester is fraught with loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs both in the system of the Department of Defense, and in large, medium and small enterprises of the defense industry located throughout the country. According to the Department of Defense, the Pentagon by no means always spends funds efficiently and cost-effectively, nevertheless 55 billion is an objectively large sum, about ten percent of the annual defense spending. And the cumulative effect of these reductions within 10 years will inevitably impact on a number of armament systems and the U.S. armed forces overall readiness.

The most likely victims of sequestration according to experts are the new generation of refueling aircrafts and assault shipping. The military equipment repair schedules will be prolonged and periods of stay of military units, especially naval, in the troubled areas of the world will be cut. This January, the administration announced a new doctrine saying of the transfer of strategic focus from Europe and the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region. Then it was stated that this requires the presence in the fleet of 313 combat ships, but the budget made by the Pentagon would not allow it to even come close to this figure.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree that the continuous reduction of all the defense budget items as required by the sequestration law, would damage the U.S. Army, but the fundamental economic differences do not allow them to prevent the sequester.

U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, delivering a program report at the National Defense University, said the budget cuts in the United States has already begun to have a negative impact on the combat readiness of the armed forces. According to his version, the combination of budget problems and the dead-end political process has brought to more drastic and deeper cuts than planned. The Department of Defense in connection with the sequestration has to cut spending by 41 billion dollars in the current financial year and, if the situation does not change, even by 500 billion dollars over the next decade. Hagel said the Defense Department has already made a lot of cuts, including in terms of making official visits, as well as the military facilities maintaining costs . Also, the process of hiring has been suspended. The Minister of Defence also mentioned about sending employees on unpaid leave. Reductions can also seriously affect the process of military training. He noted that the United States withdraws from the wars that have lasted more than a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the threat of extremism remains and continues to come from the "states with weak central authority" in the Middle East and North Africa.

The USAF will also suspend flights of 17 combat squadrons. On 1 March 2013 the USAF's budget for the current financial year (ending on September 30) was reduced by 591 million dollars, wherefore the flying program was reduced by 44 thousand hours. The remaining 241 thousand flight hours will be divided between squadrons of constant combat readiness. The suspension of flights will take effect on April 11, 2013, and for those aircrafts that are currently abroad - immediately after their return to base. In the squadron, whose flights are suspended, there are F-15C/D, F-22, F-15E and F-16C/D fighters, A-10C attack planes, B-1B, B-2, B-52 bombers, E-3B/C/G airborne warning and control system aircrafts, and several RC-135 type sensor aircrafts. It is not specified how many aircrafts in total will not get in the air. Even before the U.S. budget sequester coming into effect, the USAF command stated that because of the reduction in military spending, the USAF will have to reduce the number of flight hours, at least by 18 percent. As a result the Air Force combat readiness will be "below the optimal level". By estimate of the command, the military will need about six months to eliminate the effects of reducing the number of flight hours.

Due to the sequester the U.S. Defense Department also has to drop a number of military exercises. Thus, according to the Washington Post in the troops the Northern Territory major tactical exercise was canceled; it is conducted every other year in the U.S. state of Alaska with the participation of servicemen of all arms, as well as the Coast Guard and the National Guard. As is specified by the command of the armed forces in Alaska, this decision was made due to sequester - a forced reduction of expenditure items of the federal budget. This year, the Northern Territory combined arms exercise was scheduled for 17-28 June. It is conducted with the view of training soldiers to accomplish actual combat missions, including rapid response to crises in the Asia-Pacific region. As a rule, participants of maneuvers practice different scenarios on land, in air and at sea, using new weapons systems. These exercises "remain a very important part of" a common strategy for serving the U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region and will continue where possible to solve budget problems, the command in Alaska reported. Previously, for the same reasons the Pentagon canceled the USAF annual Red Flag exercise that had been scheduled for April in Alaska.

Thus, despite the statements by U.S. Defense Secretary that the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are doing their best that the army maintains a high degree of combat readiness and is able to perform the missions assigned to it, it can be concluded that the sequester has much hit at the U.S. Army, as well as at its level of training. If the planes do not fly, ships do not sail, the army is not trained, and equipment is not supplied to the army, what "high combat readiness" can Defense Minister Hagel talk about?