The Joint Chiefs of Staff joined Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey today in describing to the House Armed Services Committee the effects sequestration will have on the services.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told the committee that 48 percent of the Army's budget goes to personnel costs. Budget cuts mean personnel cuts, he said. "And that starts to reduce our capabilities and abilities to respond," he added.
It also means a reduction in the number of brigade combat teams, support units and civilian personnel, Odierno said.
"I began my career in a hollow Army. I am determined not to end my career in a hollow Army," the general said. "We cannot allow careless budget cuts to bring us there again."
The Army's fiscal outlook is dire, Odierno said. In the remaining seven months of this fiscal year, the Army faces an about $17 billion to $18 billion shortfall in its operations and maintenance accounts, and an additional $6 billion cut to other programs, the general said. This is due to the combination of the continuing resolution, a shortfall in overseas contingency operations funds and sequestration, Odierno said.
The result is that the Army has been forced to curtail training for 80 percent of its ground forces, implement a servicewide hiring freeze and terminate about 3,100 temporary and term employees, Odierno said. The Army's 251,000 permanent civilian employees will be furloughed for up to 22 days, he said.
Base maintenance funds will be cut by 70 percent, Odierno said. Routine maintenance will stop, meaning that eventually buildings will fail faster than they can be repaired, he said.
In addition, he said, cuts to flying hours mean the Army will be short 500 pilots by the end of the fiscal year, creating a backlog at flight schools that will take more than two years to reduce.
In fiscal year 2014, Odierno said, sequestration will result in the loss of at least an additional 100,000 soldiers from the active Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.
"Combined with previous cuts that have already been approved, this will result in a total reduction of at least 189,000 personnel from the force, but it'll probably be higher than that," he added.
The Navy is in a similar situation, said Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations. Its role as the nation's sea force is at great risk, he said.
Sequestration will have an irreversible and debilitating impact on the Navy's readiness through the rest of the decade, Greenert said. Already, the Navy has delayed the deployment of one carrier, delayed the overhaul of a second, and delayed construction on a third, he said -- decisions that came with significant consequences to naval personnel, the defense industry and local economies.
An $8.6 billion shortfall in operations and maintenance "has compelled us to cancel ship and aircraft maintenance, reduce operations, curtail training for forces soon to deploy, and plan for the furlough of thousands of civilians," Greenert said.
"Sequestration threatens to carve crucial capability from our Air Force as well," said Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force chief of staff.
"Sequestration represents the potential $12.4 billion top-line budget reduction for fiscal year '13 for the Air Force," he said. "It affects every account and every program."
The Air Force's 180,000 civilian employees face a 22-day furlough, Welsh said, a loss of 31.5 million hours of productivity in fiscal y2013 alone.
Sequestration will cut 30 percent of the Air Force's remaining weapons systems sustainment funds, he said, creating a maintenance backlog that will last for years.
"Sequestration will have an almost immediate effect on our ability to respond to multiple concurrent operations around the globe, something that we've been asked to do, along with our sister services, many times in the past," Welsh said.
Despite its role as the nation's crisis response force, the Marine Corps costs the government less per service member than any of the other branches, said Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos.
"Under continuing resolution, I have kept deploying units ready, but only by stripping away the foundations of the long-term readiness of the total force," Amos said.
If sequestration goes forward, by the end of the year more than 50 percent of Marine tactical units will be below minimum acceptable readiness levels for combat deployments, he said.
"The most troubling and immediate risks are those that sequestration imposes on our people," Amos said. "Sequestration does not hurt things, it hurts our people. The qualitative edge that the American service member takes to the battlefield is the fundamental advantage that differentiates our forces from our enemies.
"This qualitative combat edge will be severely eroded by the impacts of sequestration," he continued, "leaving America's men and women with inadequate training, degraded equipment, and reduced survivability."
The National Guard provides dual-mission capability -- serving both the nation and its communities, said Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau. Sequestration jeopardizes that capability by reducing the funds the Guard's active-duty partners have available for institutional procurement, training, education and depot-level maintenance, he said.
Were sequestration to occur, "in a matter of months, our readiness as an operational force for the nation's defense and as an immediate homeland response capability will be eroded," he said.
"With the inability to transfer funds between programs, sequestration and the possibility of a year-long continuing resolution will further degrade our overall readiness," Grass said. "If we face a full sequestration scenario, the National Guard may have to furlough soldiers and airmen serving as military technicians, as well as other government civilians,"
"In the final analysis, sequestration potentially asks the most [of those] who have borne the greatest sacrifice," Amos said.
"The effects of sequestration over the next 10 years will threaten the foundations of our all-volunteer force, putting the nation's security on a vector that is potentially ruinous," he continued. "It will dramatically shape perceptions of our government as both an employer and as a customer, thereby reducing confidence throughout our nation's institutions. These are strategic matters that demand our immediate attention and action."