1301017-M-EV637-462THE PENTAGON: That question is what America’s allies asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other senior national security leaders over the last few weeks as they watched agog as the world’s biggest economy and military came perilously close to systemic failure.

“Our allies are asking questions: Can we rely on our partnership with America? Will America fulfill its commitments and promises?” Hagel told reporters during a briefing held to answer questions about today’s end of the three-week long federal government shutdown.

The Pentagon saw $600 million vanish because of “lost productivity” from civilian workers furloughed as a result of the shutdown, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told us. (That’s a statistic we’re sure the Republicans are unlikely to mention when they discuss the shutdown.)

Also, Hagel said the Pentagon couldn’t go ahead with any new weapons programs. (We’re still waiting for a list of which particular ones). Hale added later that new starts remain dead in the water because they aren’t allowed by the Continuing Resolution passed by Congress to keep the government funded through the end of the year. A “CR” lets the government keep spending at last year’s levels, plus or minus some percent, but that only permits the Pentagon to continue existing programs: A CR doesn’t allow it to start anything new — or for that matter to stop doing things it’s decided are a waste of money and time.

What programs had to be put on hold? “There are no huge ones. There are a number of smaller ones,” said Hale, who confessed he couldn’t remember the list. “One of the biggest problems is we have to buy the same number of ships as we bought last year.”

The gravest impact on the military and its civilian contractors, Hagel and Hale said, is on morale.

Aside from the immediate question of when and whether they would get paid, civilian employees and the military are looking at careers and their employer.

“People have to have some confidence they have a job they can rely on,” Hagel said. “We won’t be able to recruit good people.” He gave the example of a question he recently got from a member of the military: “My wife asked me to ask you: do I have a future?”

It’s a question that, at this point, only Congress can really answer. Later on, voters will have the chance to express their opinion.

Comments

  • Don Bacon

    “Our allies are asking questions: Can we rely on our partnership with America? Will America fulfill its commitments and promises?”

    That depends on what allies consider to be commitments and promises.

    If it’s a treaty promise like come to the aid if attacked, that sort of thing, the answer is probably or maybe. It depends on the situation.

    If it’s invasion and occupation, Iraq-style, or Syria, forget it. Hagel is against it.

    If it’s belligerence toward the great emerging economic/military power in Asia, China, forget it. Hagel is wary of any strategy that smacks of economic, political, and military containment of China.

    If it requires out-of-control corporate-welfare military spending, Hagel won’t be a strong advocate.

    If it requires screwing the enlisted, as General Amos is starting to do in the Marine Corps, look for for some reaction from ex-enlisted Hagel.

    If a situation requires political engagement rather than boots on the ground, look for Hagel’s counsel: “We will need to turn our receivers on and our transmitters off.”

    So the emphasis will be on partnership, as the question suggests, and not on the U.S. acting as an automatic go-to country for a great-power military solution. And that’s good, if Hagel sticks to his professed principles and is able to prevail.

  • Henry

    They can’t rely on a bankrupt country. Slashing our military spending to an affordable level would greatly improve our military power. Stop selling BS and get to work cutting the fat Hagel!

  • bridgebuilder78

    Why so few comments on this article?

  • blahDemRepub

    In the private sector, there’s no guarantee of anything—ever. Take a guy who spent six tough years getting a master’s degree in Computer Science—he get’s a software engineering job with a private company, and two days later that company pulls an H1-B trick and replaces him with some robot from India. These military people need to GROW UP…private sector people are tougher than them…they realize there’s no guarantees of anything, ever. Work hard and keep looking for better and better opportunities. Start a Roth IRA. Save. Most of the people I know that are long-term military go in because they couldn’t, or didn’t want, to make it in the private sector. And they try to hide away for 20 years for that 50% pension…another thing unheard of in the real world.

  • LTTR136

    The American citizens can’t count on the US government, why should anyone else?

  • Jasper

    We’ve sold out to our enemies, as they lined their pockets with the billion$ we have given them. Meanwhile our own allies and soldiers are left out in the cold while we quietly blame it all on the Congress. What about the prez, DOJ, Pentagon….?