CAPITOL HILL: The next Pentagon budget will almost certainly include increased spending for the Navy, Marines, and Air Force to boost their presence and operations in the Asia-Pacific region. That’s because the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon’s strategic review found we must “further prioritize missions within the context of a continued rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.”
Dempsey, who made the statement in written answers to questions from the committee in preparation for his nomination hearing this morning, also said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s Strategic Choices and Management Review “affirmed the fundamental soundness of the Defense Strategic Guidance,” which posited the initial strategic shift. So they must keep the shift to the Pacfic going and they don’t have the resources committed to accomplish it.
And if sequestration continues — as it looks likely to — the country faces what Dempsey coined “strategy insolvency.” This comes even as we face “fewer existential threats to the nation but far more threats to the nation by extremist groups,” the chairman told the committee.
If sequestration steamrolls ahead unchecked by a fractured and paralyzed Congress, this is what Dempsey thinks the military will face:
“Unready forces, misaligned global posture, inability to keep pace with emerging threats, reduced security cooperation , and failure to maintain a high quality All Volunteer Force are all becoming increasingly likely the longer sequestration in its current form persists.”
In the end, the military will run to the sound of guns, but, Dempsey told the Senate armed Services Committee, “we may not be ready to go.”
All this may well have been a topic during briefings of congressional leaders today on the classified version of the annual China report for Congress.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter generated the only real weapon system news, with Adm. James Winnefeld, Dempsey’s vice chairman, telling the committee that the Pentagon is “doing everything we can to protect the numbers” of F-35 it plans to buy. “We really want to ramp up production as soon as we can to gain economies of scale.” That echoes comments made earlier this week by Frank Kendall, defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, to my colleague Tony Capaccio. So we now see both the military and civilian sides of the Pentagon committed publicly.
Best line of the hearing comes from Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He asked Adm. James Winnefeld, Dempsey’s vice chairman, about the impact of sequestration. The Air Force, he noted, had (until recently) grounded one-third of its combat aircraft due to sequestration. What kind of enemy force would it take to have that same effect, he asked? Winnefeld dodged the question, so Graham offered his take:
He would, if he were Iranian, send Congress “a thank-you note for Congress’ inability to stop sequestration.”