By Tom Shuhart
Forced budget cuts for the military have had many up in arms. A report released by the Bipartisan Center in October, suggested that a combination of budget cuts and escalating compensation costs may have reduced the U.S. military’s fighting forces by at least 50 percent by 2021 and threaten national security.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the total federal outlays may reach approximately $454 billion over the course of the next 8 years if the initial budget cuts were to take effect.
The forced cuts, known in Washington as “sequestration”, come as the military is in the midst of a drawdown in Afghanistan and shrinking its overall size. The sequestration will affect the military and other discretionary government spending except for entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
According to ABC News, the various heads of the military branches and politicians alike have been pleading with House Armed Service Committee in recent months, claiming that their services will be unable to meet their strategic responsibilities if forced budget cuts in coming years take effect as planned. “You’d better hope we never have a war again,” the House Armed Services Committee chairman, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, a Republican from California, said of the decline in what the military calls its readiness.
It seems as if their prayers have been answered. On December 12th, the House of Representatives passed a budget bill to increase spending that would reverse some of the automatic cuts that the sequester had in place. The Senate will likely pass the bill and President Obama is expected to sign it.
The bill reduces the deficit by about $23 billion over 10 years, doesn’t raise taxes, protects military spending and allows Congress to return to its usual budget appropriations process, which the Pentagon and military leaders are calling a major win.
“It will help address our military readiness challenge by restoring funding for training and procurement, especially in the current fiscal year,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, while acknowledging that even with the budget agreement the department still faces huge fiscal challenges.
Even with the current cuts, Hagel noted that military leaders will have to find a balance between the size of the military and its readiness and capabilities.