Joint Chiefs at HASC Sept 2013CAPITOL HILL:  Even the cameras stopped clicking in a hushed Armed Services hearing room today as Rep. Jim Cooper told the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his colleagues on the biggest committee in Congress today that America’s lawmakers had failed the country.

“You gentlemen make life and death decisions in the Tank almost every day,” a somber Cooper said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, looking straight at Army Gen. Ray Odierno, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh and Marine Gen. James Amos. “We are unwilling to even come up with a budget for America.”

Even the usually partisan HASC Chairman Buck McKeon, after offering a very short defense of the House and GOP’s actions on sequestration, spoke the truth to the Joint Chiefs and the packed hearing room: “It’s not your fault. It is us.”

How bad will it get if the United States Congress does not reverse the Budget Control Act, the foundation of sequestration?

Three of the four Joint Chiefs told the HASC that they would not be able to execute the most basic strategic requirement of the US military: defeating an enemy in a single major theater operation. Only Gen. Amos, Marine Commandant, said his self-sufficient force could handle one MTO, but could not handle more than that. To remind those who haven’t followed this issue closely, the American military long planned for what were called two major theater wars. While it was a chimera in many ways, it did play an important forcing function. Now we are officially down to one win and one hold, sort of.

“It’s my opinion we would struggle to meet even one major theater contingency,” Odierno testified early in the hearing. Later, each of the Joint Chiefs was asked by Rep. Randy Forbes, chairman of the HASC seapower and power projection forces subcommittee, if they could execute the military’s basic Strategic Planning Guidance, which requires that US forces be able to handle one enemy and to deter another. Down the line he went. Odierno: no; Greenert: no; Welsh: no. Amos, yes, but.

To be clear, this does not mean that America’s forces are unready now to handle its most important jobs. But if sequestration continues into 2014, the pressure on readiness and procurement funds will gradually squeeze the capabilities out of the four services.

Here’s a list of what the military could not buy or would have to defer if sequestration continues in fiscal 2014:

Navy: This is drawn from Adm. Greenert’s statement to the HASC.

One Virginia class submarine would be canceled.

Work on the first replacement for the Ohio-class nuclear missile submarines — SSBN-X — would be delayed fiscal from 2021 by one year, leaving the United States with a gap in the most crucial part of the nuclear triad.

One Littoral Combat Ship would not be bought.

Some 11 tactical aircraft – four EA-18Gs, one F-35C, one E-2D, two P-8As, three MH-60s and “about 400 weapons.”

One Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) would not be bought.

Delivery of the USS GERALD R. FORD (CVN-78) would be delayed by two years, raising questions about whether the Navy could keep the requisite number of carriers at sea as needed.

Army: Gen. Odierno emphasized what he hasn’t been able to do already: “The Army deferred maintenance on 172 aircraft, more than 900 vehicles, almost 2,000 weapons, and over 10,000 pieces of communications equipment.”

In terms of procurement affected should sequestration continue to 2014, Odierno said combat vehicle development will slow. “In our aviation program, we cannot afford to procure a new Armed Aerial Scout program and we will be forced to reduce the production and modernization of 25 helicopters. We will reduce system upgrades for unmanned aerial vehicles. We will delay the modernization of Air Defense Command and Control systems,” he said in his statement. If things keep going to fiscal 2015, “every acquisition program will be affected.”

Air Force: While the blue suiters have not made any final decisions, Gen. Mike Hostage, head of Air Combat Command, told the Air Force Association annual conference this week that he could accept elimination of the entire 340-plane A-10 close air support fleet. Among the other options on the table: eliminating the 59-aircraft KC-10 tanker fleet; eliminating the F-15C fleet and scrapping plans to build a new $6.8 billion combat search and rescue fleet, one used by all the services.

The head of Air Force Space Command, Gen. William Shelton, captured the sense of the services yesterday when he told the AFA conference that sequestration “probably represents a bigger threat to our capabilities than anything an enemy is thinking up.”

The most eloquent expression of the military’s deepening unease and frustration with Congress’ inability to scrap sequestration did not involve any words. I asked Gen. Hostage yesterday if he believed Congress understood how much sequestration is affecting the American military’s ability to be ready and to do its job. The enormous sigh he uttered said it all.

Is there hope that Congress is getting the message and may break the sequestration mold when the debt ceiling negotiations finally happen? One GOP staffer believes there is now a chance. Until the last few days, this person did not believe there was much of a chance.


  • TerryTee

    Cancel the “Junk Strike Fighter” and the Air Forces problem is solved. These Air Force Generals would give up the best Air Craft in our current inventory “340 A-10s and F-15C’s ” so they can an Aircraft “Junk Strike Fighter” that can’t do what either of these two Aircraft currently do. How STUPID is that!!!

    • Don Bacon

      I still recall your line: You want an engine with that?

      The F-35 program office refuses to divulge the F135 engine cost, except to crow about how as a result of hard bargaining it’s 2.5% less, etc. blah blah. Keeping unit costs of frames and engines a secret is like a religion with the F-35 program office.

      So I looked at the contracts awarded for various lots, and the only one that I could begin to decipher was Lot V. There were two contract awards, one in 2010 for long-lead items for 42 engines, and another for production in 2011 for 32 engines. Factoring the two contract unit costs leads to a per-unit F135 average cost (A,B & C) of $38m.

      The Netherlands just announced a decision (the parliament must vote) for 37 more F-35A (they already have two) for 4.5 billion euros ($6.01 billion) = $162m ea. So that would be roughly $124m frame plus $38m engine = $162m.

      I thought the Dutch had more financial sense than that! But deliveries wouldn’t begin until 2019, and the program will be dead long before that.

      • TerryTee

        If you notice the Netherlands cut their order from 85 to 37 Aircraft, that’s 48 fewer Aircraft, just like Italy and the UK have cut way back on the number of airframes. Italy cut 41 airframes and the UK cut it’s order from 140 to 48 confirmed Airframes, so that’s 92 less for the UK. So far that’s 181 fewer Airframes, so prices are not going to go down because of VOLUME buying.

        • Don Bacon

          Plus the Dutch already took delivery on two, they’re in storage at Eglin. They don’t dare take them home with them, I guess.

          And this just in:

          Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin’s executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II Program, said the cost for an F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant has dropped to less than $100 million per aircraft.

          “That’s a great milestone for us,” Martin said, noting that in negotiations from low-rate initial production (LRIP) 1 aircraft to LRIP-5, costs per airframe dropped 55 percent. “We are dragging costs down across the entire program.”

          • TerryTee

            That $100 Million figure is without an engine, Remember we were discussing that # before when I said “You want an engine with that?” well that is going to cost you more.

          • Don Bacon

            I know. Airframe only, the engine is government-supplied. So the complete JSF (average) is in the $130m range, far above the $90m that General Bogdan has suggested is a best-case scenario especially for foreign sales.

            And it could be more. There’s supposed to be an audit soon. We’ll see. They will try to avoid putting out real numbers.

            We’re talking here about a plane that still lacks most of its development testing and all of its operational testing, and a plane that still lacks most of its ten million lines of software to run its high-tech sensors and combat functions.

        • Don Bacon

          On the UK numbers — I have them at 138 F-35B planned, 48 committed, 4 ordered LRIP VII.

          In July 2012, British Defence Minister Philip Hammond stated that an initial 48 F-35Bs will be purchased to equip the carrier fleet, but a final figure of F-35 purchases will not be decided until the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015

          By 2015 the program will be . . .I already said that.

  • Don Bacon

    US Military Could Not Handle One Major Theater Operation If Sequester Sticks

    Good news–no more senseless perpetual foreign wars! But the U.S. was losing them anyhow, so it’s really not a problem except for the many war profiteers who must now turn to productive enterprises.

  • George

    We would still spend six times more than any other nation on Earth, and some 20 times more than any regional power, yet we can’t do anything. Fire the losers who announced that and find competent leaders.

    • allbuss84

      $1 US outside of the US buys a lot more stuff than $1 in the US. The gap is substantially smaller if you factor in purchasing power. On top of that other countries are boosting military spending while we cut.

    • Al Schrader

      As for the equipment, it’s like anything – you make do with what you have.
      I’m a Florida redneck. I make Sgt York look like a Disney character.
      I already have a gun range and use of Masters Field for training purposes.
      Send them to me. I’ll teach them how to shoot and how to survive for free.

  • AGTR

    These military are just as bad as Congress and the current administration. How about tightening their spending by eliminating their excessive amount of generals, O6, and even more O5? Also, cut some unnecessary travel and excessive civilian personnel, who by the way are also overpaid! Civilian grades are bloated and supervisory positions are more than needed in most organizations. Also, get rid of deputies! These generals are full of “it”!

    • Catalina Hime

      You obviously know nothing about the military. If you are in the service you would have to be a low ranking imbecile who knows nothing about military structure. Go do some statistic research to see how many O5 and above there are. Also an O5 and O6 are not generals they are Lt. Colonel, Colonel (Army, Air Force, Marine Corps), Commander, and Captains (Navy).You just made one of the dumbest comments I have seen this year. SMDH

      • James Scott

        I live at the nexus of three major military bases. Do you know who the highest-paid man is? The golf pro, whom the Pentagon pays more per year than 99% of U.S. citizens will make during their lifetimes.

      • alawhammy

        Thank you Catalina Hime….I was ready to trash him on the keyboard too!!! You trash him perfectly. You are absolutely right. He must be a civilian-military-hater who couldn’t get in, previous military that got kicked out, or a low ranking “sea-lawyer!”

  • Mary Wilson

    I am SO PROUD of our Rep Jim Cooper. He is telling the truth and apologizing to our armed forces and it is blatantly clear that this Congress, and going back 5 years, has failed our country over and over….because it/they want our President to FAIL…in the process, they are pulling our country down in the process. Thank you Jim Cooper.

  • rene591

    538 billion in defense spending (166 by China far distance second) 49% of world wide expenditures. and these great Americans are complaining. please stop from LOL. should cut your budget by 50%. and shift to productive sector of economy instead of death dealing

  • battlestations

    No Mary, our president has managed to rack up over 7 trillion in debt, by the end of his term he will have doubled the debt. When you add up the money borrowed, plus money taxed and spent by the gov’t in just the past 5 years, it comes to a total spending of around 17 trillion, personally, I don’t see where 17 trillion has been squandered in my area. And before you all start calling me a hater or racist, I voted for him too.

  • Patrick Shrier

    What DoD needs to do is stop complaining and start fitting ends to means. Sequestration is most likely not going away so instead of whining about what they now can’t do they need to be focused on determining what they can do and shaping the force to achieve that. The days of fat defense budgets are over and budget constraints are forcing a relook at strategic priorities. This is natural and right.

  • John Lyman

    Many years ago there was a tongue-in-cheek story that eventually individual aircraft costs would rise to the point that each fiscal year, the Armed Services could only buy ONE aircraft: the Air Force would get to fly it on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; the Navy on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; and the Marines would get it on Sundays. The Army would have to walk.
    With the F-35 series, I think we are getting very close to that situation.

  • slick

    Sequester….thats what you call Spending Record amounts of tax dollars in other countries …Egypt, etc. take multi million dollar vacations, give our known enemies tanks, F-16’s, and millions…but close the White House to tours….thats sequester

    • James Scott

      The few billions we give other nations — largely to buy military supplies and spare parts from us, I might add — is trivial compared to what it buys: The pledge of these nations to keep using the dollar as their reserve currency, which grants the dollar the status and stability it enjoys worldwide. Stop foreign aid and our dollar could easily shrink to 50% of its present value. Think you’d enjoy THAT?

      • chrismalllory

        So our dollar would be worth a 1/2 cent instead of one cent? Those billions are an unconstitutional expense. Most of them go to Israel and Egypt, hardly the basis of the world economy.

        • James Scott

          You really are a moron, aren’t you? The basis of our economy is the fact that 66% of other nations use the dollar to buy oil and other commodities — and that when we give Israel and Egypt a billion dollars, they turn around and buy military gear and spare parts FROM US. At least try to act like you’ve ever read a book.

  • Carebear

    “If SEQUESTER STICKS” Bullcrap. If obummer would stop giving our money to all his two bit buddies, who turn around and poop on AMERICA, we would have no Sequester. Oh, and GROUND AIR FORCE ONE

    • James Scott

      It’s clear you have no concept what foreign aid is or why it exists.

      • chrismalllory

        It is an unconstitutional expense that must be ended. Not one dime of American tax money should be sent overseas for any reason.

        • James Scott

          If it doesn’t, the dollar could collapse overnight. Have fun bartering chickens for your gasoline!

  • Wayne Langman

    Congress required the military to hire civilians to do jobs formerly done by soldiers. Soldiers used to do their own laundry using the same troops that would run field laundries in wartime. They washed their own dishes and cooked their own food. Cut their own grass and maintained their own buildings using KP’s and civil engineering and other support troops.
    Even higher levels of vehical and equipment maintenance are farmed out now.
    Congress wanted military money to go to the people that live around the bases.
    They can take care of themselves if they have to.

  • james

    Sequester is small fraction of cuts needed to balance budget.. which is never even mentioned any more. Obama made campaign promise to balance budget but what happened is 5 trillion more debt. Continued increases in debt is not a possible way forward… Debt cannot be unlimited without severe consequences.. maybe we have already passed the tipping point.

  • ycplum

    The Marines said they can fulfill their one MTO obligations, but the Marines are dependent on the other branches for support, particularly the Navy. The Marines ar eready to fight, but first, the Navy and/or AF must secure teh air/sea lands to transport them to the theater of operations, provide fire support at the beachhead, and then provide logistics support.

  • Tim Miller

    The sequester dreamed up by Obama, only cuts the rate of growth. The government will spend more this year than last, but slightly less, and we have daily stories about drastic cuts. What are they going to do when we really run out of money, like when our near 17 trillion debt comes due.



  • hank

    So what we have here is the republicans putting the whole country in harms way in a VERY REAL way. Their action is indefensible.

  • thedofuss

    no problem. when the repubs get done with their agenda, there will be very little to defend anyway.

  • Greg Sprang

    Bottomline is that sequester level spending is here to stay, and “business as usual” will no longer suffice (for Congress or DoD). A decent place to start, and that is “start”, is with the stimson report on Strategic Agility.