Defense Secretary Outlines Possible Responses to Sequestration

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel outlined the findings of the recent Strategic Choices and Management Review (SCMR) by the Department, commissioned to develop an understanding of the impact of further budget cuts to the entire Department of Defense (DoD) and to develop options to deal with the cuts. Secretary Hagel stressed that all programs were on the table in this review. National Military Family Association Government Relations Director Kathleen Moakler attended the briefing on Wednesday, July 31 at the Pentagon.

The military community is unraveling. The proposed cuts are real and will deeply hurt our military community. We appreciate the tough positions our defense leaders face; but military families are the unintended victims of sequestration. Join our campaign to #EndSequestration.

SCMR Review

The SCMR review considered the implications of sequestration if it continues in Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) and budget options as DoD and the Services plan their budgets for FY 2015 through 2019. They also looked at how the cuts resulting from sequestration would impact U.S. military strategy for the future. A question that was raised in the Q&A session was a good one: are they just making budget adjustments or will this involve the development of a new overall strategy? Part of the consideration in this area includes choosing between size (number of personnel) and capability (modernization and maintaining a technological edge).

Many of the options Secretary Hagel mentioned in the statement were just that, options. Included were shrinking the active Army to between 380,000 and 450,000 troops, reducing the number of carrier strike groups from 11 to eight or nine, draw down the Marine Corps from 182,000 to between 150,000 and 175,000, and retire older Air Force bombers. Examples in the compensation arena more familiar to military families include:

  • Ending subsidies for defense commissaries
  • Changing military health care for retirees to increase use of private-sector insurance when available
  • Restricting the availability of unemployment benefits
  • Changing how the basic allowance for housing (BAH) is calculated so that individuals are asked to pay more of their housing costs
  • Reducing the overseas cost of living adjustment
  • Continuing to limit military and civilian pay raises
  • Eliminating civilian pensions for retired military personnel serving in civilian government service.

Again, these are options. Some are being considered for FY 14 and some in the out years of FY15 through FY19.

Efficiency reforms that are being implemented now include a twenty percent reduction in major DoD headquarter budgets to include a reduction in civilian and military billets; reducing the number of direct reports to the Secretary of Defense by consolidating functions with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD); and, reducing intelligence analysis and production at Combatant Command centers to foster integration and reduce duplication.

The disappointing aspect of all this is that even after all these efficiencies are implemented, all these cuts are made, all these military and civilians personnel are let go,  there will still be a huge shortfall in order to meet the $500 billion in reductions required by sequestration over the next ten years.

Sequestration hurts. Join us in our fight to #EndSequestration.

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