WASHINGTON The Pentagon leadership is constructing battle
plans. But this battle doesnt involve tanks rolling across the hills or bombing
Its a budget battle, and the plans will determine the size of
the minimum force needed to meet the Obama administrations military strategy
It is definitely going to be a template for future change,
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said during a taping of This Week in
Defense News. [W]e have to change, not just the size, but the shape of our
force. Thats what behaving and acting strategically is all
Carter was responding to questions about the so-called base force
drill being conducted by the Joint Chiefs. It is the first time this type of
review has been conducted since then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin and Joint
Chiefs Chairman Gen. Colin Powell ordered one in the early 1990s after the Cold
[W]e are trying to use this time to anticipate what it is that the
country needs for its future defense, where the most important parts of the
world are going to be in the future, what the new frontiers are in warfare and
make sure that we continue as a military to get there to that future before
anybody else does, Carter said.
The base force that Aspin and Powell
constructed centered on two major simultaneous wars. The two-war requirement has
since been deleted as the Pentagons budget has fallen.
The base force
is an exercise in defining what the minimal force is you think you must have to
execute the strategy, said Gordon Adams, an American University professor who
oversaw defense budgeting during the Clinton administration.
At the same
time, the Pentagon is also building a new quadrennial defense review to look at
the future shape of the force.
[W]hat we try to do is ask ourselves what
are the most important parts of the world to the United States in the future,
Carter said. What are the capabilities that we most need, recognizing that, to
get to your budget point, we are not going to be able to have
Despite the budget cuts, Carter insists DoD will still fund
its shifted focus to the Asia-Pacific region, a major tenet of the Obama
administrations 2012 military strategy.
We are going to continue to
resource the new strategic bomber, the aerial refueling tanker, which is an
important part of that, our important sub-surface capabilities, electronic
warfare, cyber, our alliances and partnerships, which are the bedrock for
everything we do there, he said.
developing as many as four fiscal 2015 budget proposals, which deal with
different levels of cuts, according to Pentagon sources. Senior Pentagon
officials have frequently cited preparation for two budgets, one that builds on
the administrations 2014 proposal and another that includes sequestration
We have been working on sequester-level budgets, but that
is not what we think the country deserves or needs, and therefore, we are
working on and planning for a range of budgets, Carter said. It is just
The Pentagons $527 billion fiscal 2014 budget proposal is $52
billion above federal spending caps. DoD is operating under a continuing
resolution, which is about $30.9 billion less than the 2014 proposal, but still
$20.7 billion above the spending caps, meaning that money would be subject to
sequestration in January.
The cuts, defense officials say, are having an
impact on their ability to train.
There are very real effects on
readiness; there are going to be real effects on some of our programs that we
work so hard to reflect better buying power for the taxpayer and the war
fighters, Carter said.
Speaking at a November 14 conference hosted by
Defense One, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale agreed there is a substantial
readiness issue. We clearly have degraded readiness in the military right now,
Hale said, before comparing defense funding levels to an insurance
What weve done is greatly raise the deductible, he said. If
you never have to make a claim, you wont notice it. If you have to make a
claim, if there is a major contingency operation, I think we will regret what
weve had to do in terms of military readiness.
If sequester stays, Hale
sees a smaller military as the norm.
If sequester-level budgets
continue, we will get smaller; and we will have fewer forces and a smaller
number of civilian personnel, Hale said. That takes a while to occur, so you
wont see the savings from that for a couple of years.
That will play
out with particularly high cuts to research and development (R&D) and
Youll probably see continued problems with readiness
they may be a little worse and you will definitely see, especially early in
a sequestered budget, a disproportionate cut in procurement and research and
development areas, Hale continued. Early on, its one of the few ways we can
meet abrupt budget cuts like sequestration, [by making] changes in the
modernization and particularly in the procurement and R&D. Youll see
changes everywhere, but probably heavy in investment early on.
line with what budget experts expect to see going forward, along with a more
visible impact on DoD, since much of the 2013 cuts were made to unobligated
There are fewer unobligated funds [in 2014], said
Todd Harrison, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary
Assessments think tank. You have less of a cushion.
procurement and research-and-development accounts were hit the hardest by
sequestration, Harrison said.
Over 40 percent of the cuts to procurement
programs came out of unobligated [funds], he said. So it really did soften the
immediate blow in 2013.
Harrison noted that cutting unobligated
procurement accounts now will hurt further down the road when the systems that
were supposed to be purchased have not been built. Traditionally, DoD spends
only about one-fourth of its procurement dollars in the years theyre
Its money that would have eventually been spent, so it
will have an impact, Harrison said.
Vago Muradian contributed to