WASHINGTON – The Pentagon’s just-released long-term strategic policy plan will be jeopardized if congressionally mandated budget cuts continue, the Defense Department’s under secretary for strategy said Monday.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Force Development Christine Wormuth said continued sequestration-level budget cuts would cut deeply into the size of the Army and Marine Corps, and would force the Navy and Air Force to give up carriers and jets. The across-the-board budget cuts in all federal agencies mandated by Congress could make it difficult for the military to fully protect the homeland, she added.
“We put forward a plan that at the president’s budget level will give us what we need to get the job done,” Wormuth said. “We believe the risks to our strategy will rise significantly.”
She provided a rundown of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, a legislatively mandated review of defense strategy. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel presented the report to Congress on March 4. The strategy focuses on three pillars of defense: protecting the homeland, building security globally and projecting power and winning decisively. Wormuth said the Department of Defense needs more resources in order to operate on these pillars effectively.
“Being a global leader does not come cheap,” Wormuth said. “While our strategy does have a theme of innovation, we are not putting that forward as a silver bullet or panacea to solve our fiscal issues. I am at least of the view that changing the way we execute strategy would not solve the problem alone if faced with sequestration level cuts.”
CSIS panelists criticized the department for not better communicating the risks associated with sequestration to convince lawmakers to increase defense spending.
“Has the DoD made their case?” asked Clark Murdoch, a CSIS senior adviser on defense and national strategy. “Yes. To Congress? No. What can the DOD do better? Wait for the next election.”
Murdoch said the defense strategy should be “selective and tailored” in its global engagements so the U.S. does not wear itself thin.
“There is no question the challenge facing this department is how to…sustain it under increasingly dire fiscal circumstances,” Murdoch said. “I don’t think the department has come to grips with how serious these tradeoffs are. This QDR and this (fiscal 2015 budget proposal) are starting to recognize that reality and coming to deal with it.”