Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sequester looms over military

Spending cuts - The military could be losing government funding. Photo provided

During times of war, our military budget has increased in order to fight off threats of communism and terrorism both to us and to our allies.

In times of peace, military budgets have corresponding decreased. Former president Bill Clinton cut back on military spending during what was called the Peace Dividend after the Cold War.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, intelligence agencies have dedicated time and resources predicting Al-Qaeda’s next move. Our country has also had to respond accordingly to Iran frequently delving into the use of nuclear weaponry, China expanding their military at an alarming rate, and customized submarines coming out of Colombia in order to traffic thousands of pounds of illegal drugs across the border.

Here in America, Congress is reviewing figures in order to figure out just how devastating an upcoming sequester would have on our nation’s military.

For those who keep hearing the word sequester, and wish someone would explain it, allow me.

The impending sequester comes from the word sequestration, implemented in the Budget Control Act of 2011. When legislation increased the debt ceiling, the White House and legislators agreed on a decisive plan to cut spending in crucial areas of our country’s economy, specifically militarily.

According to Jeremy Scott of The National Law Review, over the course of 10 years, spending cuts totaling $2.4 trillion are expected. Half of that number will be decided through legislation. The other half, $1.2 trillion, will be implemented as determined by a bipartisan “Super Committee,” otherwise known as the United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

These measures were supposed to be so unpleasant that the Super Committee would inevitably reach an agreement. To everyone’s surprise, they failed to reach one.

Now, a grand total of $500 billion is set to hack away at military spending over 10 years. A news transcript from the Department of Defense mentions that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke about how the sequester would impact military effectiveness.

“This is not a game. This is reality,” Panetta said. “These steps would seriously damage the fragile American economy, and they would degrade our ability to respond to crisis precisely at a time of rising instability across the globe.”

Panetta also said that the Army would have to cut back on training and maintenance.

“(We’re) putting about two-thirds of our active brigade combat teams outside Afghanistan at a reduced readiness level. We’ve got to cut back on their training,” Panetta said.

According to Panetta, the Air Force would be cut as well. The world’s most advanced air superiority force would have to reduce flying hours and cut down on weapons system maintenance. Because of these cuts, maintenance workers will be laid off, affecting the structural integrity and upkeep of fighter jets, large transports, and other high priority assets key to the Air Force. Not exactly in line with their motto “Aim High.”

The Navy faces the same startling reality. According to Wyatt Andrews of CBS Evening News, thousands of naval shipyard jobs are on the line if these cuts go into effect.

Should these hard-working individuals be laid off, not only would it affect the families of the jobless workers, but our Persian Gulf fleet would be reduced to one carrier group, decreasing our vital assets available in the powder-keg region of the world.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano also spoke on how the cuts would affect the Coast Guard. In an article written for The Day, a newspaper in New London, Conn., Napolitano said that the Coast Guard’s air and surface operations would be slashed by 25 percent. Search and rescue, drug interdiction, port security and other vital tasks would also be impacted.

According to Napolitano, the Coast Guard would have to reduce its operations in the Arctic by nearly one-third.

In a report from The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, the Arctic is recognized as an emerging national security issue. The Coast Guard’s presence there is crucial to the United States as a major competitor within the Arctic Council among nations like Russia and Canada.

For decades, the United States of America has proven to be one of the greatest fighting forces in the world. Naval expertise, air supremacy and land operations have been the mainstays of America’s military. Now, service members wait in angst as Congress tries to craft a better budget than the one hanging over the heads of military units all over the world, whether in hot and humid bases, raging seas or tumultuous coastline.

Defense experts agree that these military-slashing sequester cuts are devastating to America’s national security, whether in the Middle East or the Arctic. If Congress and President Barack Obama are not able to come up with a plan on how to better deal with these defense cuts, our military readiness will be greatly decreased. But then again, when has Congress come to a compromise?

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