Budget cuts tough choice for Hagel

9 Aug 2013 | Cpl. Timothy Norris

Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel revealed a myriad of options for defense spending cuts during a press conference at the Pentagon, July 31. 

The Department of Defense Strategic Choices Management Review, which Hagel directed, analyzed the vast DOD budget to identify where spending cuts could be made to retain a combat-ready force and keep faith with service members. 

“A top priority in future-year budget plans is to build a ready force,” Ha-gel said at the conference. “Even if that requires future reductions in force structure. 

“No matter the size of our budget, we have a responsibility to defend the country and America’s vital interests around the world. That means crafting the strongest military     possible under whatever level of resources we are provided.” 

The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires $487 billion in DOD budget cuts and could lead to as much as $1 trillion over the next     decade. Since sequestration began in March, the budget has already been reduced $37 billion, and continues to fall. 

Hagel spelled out his priorities for the DOD. 

Missions and capabilities around the responsibility of defending the nation are top priority. Followed by maximizing the military’s combat power by reducing every other category of spending, preserving and strengthening military readiness and, honoring the service and sacrifice of DOD’s people and their families.    

 To reach those goals, the review spared no department, no program, no benefit from the possibility to be cut from the budget. 

Potential programs and benefits in the sequestration crosshairs are base consolidations, relocations or closures, reduction of personnel, reducing allowance for housing and overseas cost-of-living, lowering pay raises, reducing the size of land, air and sea craft fleets including the new F-35, although Hagel said the dismissal of the F-35 program was highly unlikely.    

In contrast to budget cuts, Hagel looked to the future and the need for modern programs, training and equipment to increase service members’ flexibility and readiness for the best force possible, given reduced resources. 

“The balance we strike between capability, capacity, and readiness will determine the composition and the size of the force for years to come,” Hagel said. “We could in the end make decisions that result in a very different force from the options I’ve described here today.” 

With all the uncertainty that surrounded what, how much and when budgets were going to be cut, Hagel and Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, continually expressed their support for those who serve. 

“No one in uniform is overpaid for what they do for this country,” Ha-gel said. “People are the DOD’s most important asset, and we must sustain compensation packages that recruit and retain the finest military in the world.”