Unless the Congress repeals or reprioritizes sequestration, a mechanism set up by the Budget Control Act of 2011, that mechanism will cut roughly $50 bn out of the defense budget in FY2013 alone and another $55 bn in each FY through FY2022. Also, Congress may fail this year to pass a proper Defense Appropriations Act or an Omnibus Approps bill and pass a Continuing Resolution with funding at FY2012 levels (without regard for the DOD’s new Defense Strategic Guidance) for all programs and a ban on new program starts. If that happens, the DOD will face a severe funding shortage due to automatic, arbitrary, across-the-board cuts (excepting only military personnel).
The disastrous consequences of such cuts cannot be avoided unless the cuts themselves are cancelled and the Congress passes a proper Approps bill instead of a Continuing Resolution. There are only a few things that the DOD can do to mitigate (not avoid – merely mitigate) the damage and preserve priority programs, such as:
- Fully implementing all reforms proposed in the Defense Reform Proposals Package (the DRPP). Even without a comprehensive logistics reform and reforms to the DOD’s healthcare programs, this would still save at least $50 bn per year, starting immediately. The DOD should then use these savings to pay for priority programs and the general maintenance and readiness of the military by asking Congress to reprogram these savings.
- Reducing its civilian workforce significantly and reducing its salaries instead of a mere temporary hiring and pay freeze.
- Cancelling the LCS and ploughing the resulting savings into the construction of truly survivable and capable ships, such as the Arleigh Burke and Virginia classes.
- Cancelling the F-35A and C variants, zero-timing current aircraft, strengthening them structurally, hastening the development of the F/A-XX (NGAD) unmanned fighter for the Navy, and procuring F-15SEs for the Air Force.
- Delaying the GCV program.
- Ignoring Congressional refusal to authorize the retirement of obsolete and niche aircraft and retiring such aircraft anyway.
- Urgently requesting authorization for any reforms requiring Congressional authorization, such as TRICARE premium increases, the reform of the military retirement system, and BRAC.
- Reconsidering whether funding expensive kinetic interceptors is really the best way to provide for Israel’s security or whether there is a better and much cheaper way.
- Speeding up the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
- Ending the acquisition of EA-18G Growler aircraft and zero-timing EA-6B Prowlers instead.
- Retiring EC-130 aircraft.
- Ending all nonessential travel.
- Ending all flyovers except for training purposes.
- Ending all conferences and symposia.
- Turning over the Armed Forces Retirement Home and the Arlington National Cemetary to the DVA.
None of these steps can prevent the US military from being gutted by sequestration, let alone a combination of sequestration and a Continuing Resolution. They can, however, allow the DOD to make savings which could then be used to “reprogram” the money to be directed to needed programs.