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Sequestration Will Force Moral Dilemma, Dempsey Says

By Claudette Roulo
WASHINGTON — Looming spending cuts could put the military on the path to a moral dilemma, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said that if Congress allows major across-the-board spending cuts to go forward, the military eventually will be asked to deploy troops who are unready and ill-equipped.

“None of us walk away or run away from a crisis or a fight,” Dempsey said, sitting alongside representatives of the services and the National Guard at the committee hearing. “That’s not our nature. But I will tell you personally, if ever the force is so degraded and so unready, and then we’re asked to use it, it would be immoral.”

The cuts, known as sequestration, would be the sharpest and largest reduction in total obligating authority for the Defense Department in history, the chairman said. And they would come at a time that the world is more dangerous than it’s ever been, he added.

The magnitude of another $500 billion in defense cuts over 10 years, on top of the $487 billion in cuts over that period made under the 2011 Budget Control Act -- along with efficiencies previously implemented -- will make the current defense strategy unfeasible, Dempsey said.

“Any additional cuts will change the strategy,” he said.

For example, he said, special operations forces were somewhat protected as part of the new defense strategy in the cuts that followed the 2011 Budget Control Act. But if sequestration occurs, everybody will be affected, the chairman added.

“We have to maintain a joint force of conventional and unconventional capability,” the general told the senators.

The question members of Congress must address, Dempsey said, is what defense strategy they are willing to live with, noting that the cuts could affect U.S. interaction with its military partners.

“The Joint Chiefs are responsible for balancing global responsibilities, … sometimes directly ourselves, sometimes through partners in a region,” he said. “Our ability to do that is going to be called into doubt, given the effects of sequestration.”