Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said his greatest fear is to receive an order to deploy thousands of troops. And with good reason.
The Army has only two combat-ready brigades right now, he said. Even the ones headed to Afghanistan are qualified for the trainer and adviser mission, not combat.
Odierno said hopes to get the number of trained and equipped brigades to seven by June 2014.
“There is going to come a time when we simply don’t have enough money to provide what I believe to be the right amount of ground forces to conduct contingency operations,” he said. “We’re not there yet, but it is something we are going to continue to review.”
Army Secretary John McHugh said he and the chief are committed that “whatever the Army’s end strength and its budgets may look like, we will never send a soldier into war unprepared, untrained or improperly equipped.” But he acknowledged that there are unprecedented uncertainties with which the service must contend.
The cost of sequestration is being covered by readiness and modernization dollars. That is why there are so few brigades trained and equipped for the combat mission. Service leaders look to accelerate the drawdown to help free up some money and balance training, modernization and end strength.
One step in this endeavor is an effort to cut 25 percent of overhead in headquarters. The Pentagon only required a 20-percent cut, but Odierno said the larger slice “can achieve some significant savings” — thousands of soldiers that could instead help fill a Brigade Combat Team, for example.
But many problems are beyond Army control. Leading that category is a gridlocked Congress’ habit of passing “continuing resolutions.” These force the military to operate on the previous year’s budgets — which are several billion shorter than the president’s current budget proposals.
“By the time any budget is developed through the services, cleared through the Department of Defense, goes through the [Office of Management and Budget], goes through the administration, goes to Capitol Hill, gets through the House and Senate and is passed and is signed by the president, by the time we are executing that budget it is almost three years old,” McHugh said. “So a budget that locks us through a [continuing resolution] into last year’s budget is really a three-year-old budget. You can’t run the most important military on the face of the earth with three-year old budgets.”
These resolutions, combined with the crippling effect of sequestration, have had a negative impact on 485 programs, McHugh said. As a result, the service can’t start new contracts “which is enormously problematic” for an Army trying to evolve into a new era of technology.
And that means every program is in jeopardy.
Casey James Fury simply didn’t want to be at work, and in the process cost the Navy nearly a half-billion dollars and one attack submarine.
Fury admitted to setting fire to the USS Miami, a nuclear sub, in May 2012 while it was in dry dock. He was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison in March and ordered to pay $400 million in restitution — roughly the cost of the damage.
The Navy won’t see anything close to that amount from Fury, of course, but neither will it from Uncle Sam.
On Tuesday, the Navy announced that despite the demand for attack submarines being “as strong as ever,” the Miami is being inactivated. The reason: Under sequestration, the federal government’s forced budget cuts, the Navy simply can’t afford to make the repairs.
“The type of damage was unlike anything we’d seen in recent memory,” Rear Admiral Richard Breckenridge, director of undersea warfare, said on a Navy Live blog post. “The anticipated scope of work is four times greater than any previous submarine repair due to damage,” the post continued.
Breckenridge blamed across-board budget cuts, saying, “Sequestration pressures remove the needed foundation of stability to support an endeavor of this magnitude.”
Fury was working inside the Miami on May 23 as a painter and sandblaster while the Los Angeles-class attack submarine was at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine undergoing a massive overhaul.
Initial investigations by the Navy found that the fire may have been started by a vacuum cleaner. But a federal criminal complaint said Fury admitted to setting fire to a pile of rags near a vacuum cleaner in a stateroom in the submarine.
Seven people were injured in the blaze, including three shipyard firefighters. The sub’s reactor was not operating when the fire broke out and remained unaffected and stable throughout, Capt. Bryant Fuller, commander for the shipyard, said at the time.
Fury also admitted to starting a second fire at the dry dock three weeks later, according to federal court documents. The second fire was started in an area underneath the submarine where Fury was working. In both cases, he told investigators that he started the fires because he was having extreme anxiety and was trying to get out of work, according to federal documents.
Michael Kelly let go of another employee last month.
As chief executive of a small Michigan military contractor, Nanocerox, he had already cut his work force by one-third. But it was not enough. And if the government spending cuts mandated by Congress continue, he said, more people will go in the coming months.
The squeeze Mr. Kelly is facing is one reason markets are jittery about what the Labor Department’s latest report on unemployment and job creation will reveal about the economy on Friday. After a strong start to the year, several economic indicators beginning in March have pointed to much slower growth, largely because of the fiscal headwinds from Washington, economists say.
Job cuts like the kind at Nanocerox remain the exception, rather than the rule. On Thursday, the government said weekly unemployment claims were at a five-year low.
The problem is that companies have not been hiring. This week, a survey of private sector hiring in April came in well below expectations, while indications for everything from retail sales to manufacturing have also been soft recently.
Whatever the data ultimately show for April, economists like Diane Swonk, chief economist for Mesirow Financial in Chicago, say the economy would be showing much more momentum if it were not for the combination of higher payroll taxes that went into effect in January, as well as the process of automatic spending cuts known as sequestration that began to bite last month.
WASHINGTON — Nobody is particularly happy about the arbitrary, across-the-board spending cuts taking effect as a result of sequestration. That is, except for maybe Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), who said Tuesday that his constituents want even more cuts to kick in.
“The people that I’ve talked to seem to be doing well,” Long told local news affiliate KOLR10 News. “In fact, when I got out in restaurants here in town, people come up to me. They want to see more sequestration, not less.”
Long said people in other parts of the country may be feeling pain as a result of the $85 billion in cuts. But not his community.
“We haven’t seen any measurable effect here at all,” he said.
Long is right about one thing: Plenty of people are feeling the effects of sequestration, particularly the nation’s most vulnerable. Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers food to the elderly, is cutting as many as 19 million meals this year. Cuts to Head Start, the federal preschool educational, health and nutritional program for disadvantaged children, mean hundreds of low-income parents will be making major life adjustments to accomodate being dropped from the program.
Support the troops, Repubs.
GI on DMZ (machine gun fire and explosions in background) “Goddamit! Isn’t anybody there? It’s raining rockets up here and we’ve got about a million Norks coming straight at us! We need every bird you got and all the ordnance you can lay down! ASAP!”
“—-regret the inconvenience. Please leave your message at the beep or call back during regular business hours. Thank you from Seventh Air Force and have a nice day!”
WASHINGTON — The Air Force will begin grounding combat air squadrons Tuesday in response to forced spending cuts that have eliminated more than 44,000 flying hours through September, according to internal documents obtained by Air Force Times.
The Air Force’s budget for flying hours was reduced by $591 million for the remainder of fiscal 2013, making it impossible to keep all squadrons ready for combat, according to an April 5 memo signed by Maj. Gen. Charles Lyon, director of operations for Air Combat Command. The across-the board spending cuts, called sequestration, took effect March 1 when Congress failed to agree on a deficit-reduction plan.
Seventeen combat-coded squadrons will stand down effective Tuesday or upon their return from deployments, according to the documents. The Air Force will distribute 241,496 flying hours that are funded to squadrons that will be kept combat ready or at a reduced readiness level called “basic mission capable” for part or all of the remaining months in fiscal 2013, the documents said.
“Units will stand down on a rotating basis so our limited resources can be focused on fulfilling critical missions,” ACC Commander Gen. Mike Hostage said in a statement.
Maybe Rand Paul can suggest a way to privatize this.
Where did the whole idea of sequestration originate? It goes back to 1985. The tax cuts of Ronald’s Reagan early years, combined with his aggressive defense buildup, produced a growing budget deficit that eventually prompted passage of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. GRH set out a series of ambitious deficit reduction targets, and to put teeth into them it specified that if the targets weren’t met, money would automatically be “sequestered,” or held back, by the Treasury Department from the agencies to which it was originally appropriated. The act was declared unconstitutional in 1986, and a new version was passed in 1987.
Sequestration never really worked, though, and it was repealed in 1990 and replaced by a new budget deal. After that, it disappeared down the Washington, DC, memory hole for the next 20 years.
What about the 2013 version? Where did that come from? In the summer of 2011, Republicans decided to hold the country hostage, insisting that they’d refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless President Obama agreed to substantial deficit reduction. After months of negotiations over a “grand bargain” finally broke down in July, Republicans proposed a plan that would (a) make some cuts immediately and (b) create a bipartisan committee to propose further cuts down the road. But they wanted some kind of automatic trigger in case the committee couldn’t agree on those further cuts, so the White House hauled out sequestration from the dustbin of history as an enforcement mechanism. It would go into effect automatically if no deal was reached.
In the end, no immediate cuts were made, but a “supercommittee” was set up to propose $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction later in the year. To make sure everyone was motivated to make a deal, the sequester was designed to be brutal: a set of immediate, across-the-board cuts to both defense spending and domestic spending, starting on January 1, 2013. The idea was that everyone would hate this so much they’d be sure to agree on a substitute.
Needless to say, no such agreement was reached. So now we’re stuck with the automatic sequestration cuts.
More: The Sequester, Explained
Sequestration is at hand. The infamous provision that Congress enacted as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 so as to get the debt ceiling lifted and to force Democrats and Republicans to negotiate and make concessions failed to do its job, so across the board cuts will begin to be made.
Agencies and Departments will have some latitude on how to implement the reductions. The IRS has reported that it wont furlough its tax processors until after tax season, for instance. Other agencies are already preparing for the cuts. The cuts will not come all at once, but will have a cumulative effect of $85 billion in the current fiscal year. Furloughs wont happen right away either. That will start within the next 30-60 days.
Small businesses that have contracts with federal, state, and local agencies will be hit sooner than larger businesses because they don’t have the financial means to endure prolonged holds on business. It’s also likely to increase the unemployment rates that have struggled to come down since the recession (and despite the fact that Wall Street has surged in recent years to its pre recession highs and profits are booming).
But all eyes fall on Congress on what the next step is. Both sides have been posturing for weeks about the ramifications of the cuts and who is to blame even though it was the failure of Republicans to budge from a no-tax pledge that forced the issue.
The President is meeting with Congressional leaders today, but no deal or breakthrough is expected.
Democrats and Republicans are in a standoff over how to replace the cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over nine years, $85 billion of which would occur in the remaining seven months of this fiscal year. Republicans reject Democrats’ call for higher taxes on top earners to replace part of the spending reductions.
“Middle-class families can’t keep paying the price for dysfunction in Washington,” Obama said in a statement yesterday. The president has until 11:59 p.m. to issue the order officially putting the cuts into effect.
“How much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government?” Boehner said at a news conference in Washington yesterday. “I’m for no more.”
The White House meeting follows the Senate’s rejection yesterday of a pair of partisan proposals to replace the spending reductions. No additional congressional action is planned before the start of the cuts, to be split between defense and non-defense spending.
Yesterday, a Senate GOP proposal failed to make the cut (losing 38-62); it would have ceded appropriations control that is constitutionally provided to Congress to the President. In other words, that plan would have blunted effects of the sequester to make it more palatable, not correcting the deficiencies in the sequester’s overreaching and unyielding impact.
The Democrat plan (S. 388), which failed by a 51-49 vote (60 required to pass), would have replaced some of the defense cuts with a tax hike on top earners. That plan had the President’s support.
But the rest of Congress has skipped town knowing that nothing is getting done this weekend.
Republicans have been simultaneously blaming the President for the sequester and claiming that the cuts wont be nearly as bad as Democrats claim (but that some cuts are too bad to be made - as in the Defense budget). Majority Leader Eric Cantor has repeatedly made the bogus claim that Republicans have had a sequester alternative for months but Democrats have failed to act. I have previously fisked that approach, but the fact is that the GOP doesn’t have a sequester alternative in hand in the 113th Congress and that the prior GOP plan would have eliminated funding for Obamacare programs to offset cuts.
Democrats have all but warned that the sky will fall and that the cuts will have dire consequences and blamed Republicans for the failure to produce a balanced plan to replace the sequester with a combination of tax changes and spending cuts.
The danger for Democrats is that the budget cuts wont have the dire impact that they claim it would have and that most Americans will get the level of services they are used to and that will inure a benefit to the GOP longstanding argument that government is simply too big and that serious cuts need to be made.
Both sides of the aisle in Congress have known that they couldn’t have made cuts in the levels and scope of those that are part of the sequester. It gives them a chance to hack away at the discretionary budget in a way that hasn’t been done before. In other words, there are some on Capitol Hill who are welcoming the sequester and embrace its outcome.
One dirty little secret about sequester: cap hill veterans of BOTH parties admit they’d never be able to cut this much if left on their own
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) February 28, 2013
So, we get to a pivot point. If the cuts truly are as bad as the President warns and the American people see the impact of these cuts, it will put additional pressure on the Republicans to acquiesce on their stubborn refusal to balance cuts with tax hikes or eliminating loopholes in the tax code. The Republican effort to blame the President for the cuts has largely failed according to the polls, and that dynamic hasn’t changed - and likely wont change.
However, if the cuts aren’t as bad as the President has warned, that might give Republicans a renewed effort to push for still more cuts - arguing that there is much more to cut and that the fat needs to be trimmed from the non-discretionary budget as well. Republicans might lose the argument on who would take credit for the cuts (seeing how they currently blame the President for the sequester in the first place - #Obamaquester). Yet, these same Republicans would have no problem using the cuts to their advantage in demanding more. They’ll crow to their supporters that they held the line on cuts and did what they set out to do without compromising on their no tax pledge to Grover Norquist.
Folks like Larry Kudlow are carrying the Republican argument, claiming that the cuts are pro-growth by claiming that the cuts are only blunting a rise in the annual budget (which can be dismissed by looking at the fact that the annual budget as a percentage of GDP has shrunk during the president’s first term in office and is projected to further decline against GDP and that the total spending is still expected to increase due to entitlements not governed by the sequester).
The experts who study these things do expect that the cuts will have a significant effect on the economy by reducing the expected growth over the next year, including the IMF. Sequester cuts will slow not only domestic growth from 2% to 1.5% for 2013, but global economic growth. After all, the sequester is austerity by another name. And, we’ve already seen how austerity has slammed the economies of places like Spain, Ireland, and Greece where austerity was imposed to bring debt levels down.
With no deal in place in Congress, $85 billion in sweeping federal spending cuts will take effect Friday, targeting everything, from defense to education.
There is little hope of a last-minute deal to stave off the automatic cuts after the Senate failed to strike a deal and a large number of the members of the House left Washington on Thursday for the weekend.
The pending budget cuts are the result of impasse along primarily party lines, whose origins stem from an August 2011 deal to increase the debt ceiling.
Expectations are low that a meeting Friday morning between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders will yield a solution.
The impact of forced budget cuts Budget cuts ignites political circus Budget cuts: Warnings or scare tactics? Small thinking about BIG problems
Most observers believe both sides will use the meeting at the White house to underline their positions heading into the next round of the budget wars — a possible government shutdown on March 27, when current federal funding authority expires.
This is exactly why the Tea Party can’t govern. Any attempts to work with their political opposites on anything are seen as treason, and the villagers immediately light up their torches to storm the castle. The ignore the reality that Democrats control the Senate, and the Presidency.
Republican Congressman Scott Rigell is facing push backs from Tea Party loyalists for his appearance with President Obama at Newport News Shipbuilding Tuesday.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) is not a surprising guest alongside the president, but many Republicans took offense to Rigell’s seemingly newfound friendship with Obama.
“I knew that some would misunderstand why I got on that plane,” Rigell told 10 On Your Side. “It wasn’t about getting a ride on Air Force One. It was about being able to speak directly to the president about the need to avoid sequestration… to replace it with something wiser.”
Rigell is also willing to revise the tax code in an effort to find middle ground with Democrats in time to avoid Friday’s sequester.
“[Rigell] was elected to restrain the federal government. He was elected to be in there to cut spending to cut taxes because when you cut spending you can cut taxes. He’s done neither,” Founder of the Hampton Roads chapter of the Tea Party Karen Miner Hurd said.