Sequestration Will Affect Programs, Readiness, Chairman Says
By Tyrone C. Marshall, Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON March 12, 2013 - The Defense Department will see effects to long-term military readiness and support programs such as the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors under sequestration's fiscal constraints, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey gave remarks and fielded questions from the audience at the National League of Cities Congressional Cities Conference.
"Sequestration was the thing that was never supposed to happen," he said. The task now, he added, is to figure out how to proceed.
The military must defend the nation and will do so, the chairman said. But the bond of trust between the nation and its military must endure, he added. TAPS, Gold Star Families and the Wounded Warrior Project are among organizations that manifest that bond of trust, he added.
"But there's going to be some long-term readiness issues that will affect the force," he noted. "You can't take $500 billion out over five years, $46 billion out over six months. I mean, Houdini couldn't figure that out. So when I get asked about why we're not figuring it out, it's because I'm not Houdini. There [are] some things we're going to have to do to sweep up every bit of money we can find in the next six months."
Just as in businesses, the general said, more than half of the Defense Department's budget is spent in the first half of the fiscal year.
"So [the spending cuts are] going to have an effect," Dempsey said. "The commitment I've made is we've got to keep faith and make sure the force that we're deploying -- the one that's there now and the next to go -- they will clearly be the priority."
The chairman was clear that wounded warriors and their families will remain a priority for DOD.
"They've made a commitment to us," he said. "We've got to make a commitment to them. And [we have] our commitment to partnering with organizations like TAPS. You can count on me to continue to be a strong advocate of that."
Despite these commitments, Dempsey said, things will happen at the local level that Pentagon leadership won't see.
"I [may] say I'm going to make sure we're committed to wounded warriors, and then a wounded warrior's spouse tries to go to the commissary at Fort Carson, Colo., and it's closed," he said. "[This is] going to happen, because of this issue of sweeping up the money we need to get through the year. There will be things done at the local level that we won't have any visibility on."
The chairman said troops and their families must communicate with each other so the effects of sequestration are known.
"There are going to be things that we don't see at this level that will affect your communities," Dempsey said. "And what I've encouraged other military members and families to do is ... stay in touch with each other so we actually understand the effect."