Dempsey maps sequestration cuts at Defense

Caitlin Fairchild/GovExec.com
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said Tuesday that automatic cuts to the Defense Department’s budget resulting from the sequestration deal struck by the Obama administration and Congress would have to come from military operations, maintenance, training and modernization.


If lawmakers do not avert sequestration and the cuts take place next year, as scheduled, Dempsey still will have to pay the bill for the military’s “overseas contingency operations” in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, he told attendees at a military leadership breakfast sponsored by Government Executive.

“If there’s money taken out of the $88.5 billion that we say we need for OCO, I’m going to have to take money out of the base and invest it. You can’t not pay those bills. So OCO will touch it, but the money’s coming from some place, and that is the base,” he said.

When other options such as personnel cuts and base realignment and closure are taken off the table as well, Defense isn’t left with many choices, according to Dempsey.

“There’s talk about exempting manpower . . . and you’ve also said, ‘Thou shall not BRAC,’ ” he said. “So now you’ve limited the places where that money can come from. It can’t come from manpower. It can’t come from infrastructure. And you have to reinvest in OCO. And what’s left is operations, maintenance and training and modernization.”

Defense has had to transition in recent years to a budget-minded operation, and Dempsey readily acknowledged the department has become accustomed to a large degree of fiscal freedom as a result of a decade of war.

“Over the last 10 years of relatively unconstrained resources, we’ve had a thousand flowers blooming out there. If someone had an idea, it was pretty easy to resource it,” he said.

“We’ve kind of really stretched out the rubber band. Shame on us if we let it go and contract to the same shape it was before. Because then, frankly, I think we’ve got some problems,” Dempsey added

He said Defense plans to reduce its footprint in Europe by half to adjust to manpower reductions, while the footprint in the Pacific Rim won’t change and the level of continued U.S. presence in the Middle East has not yet been decided.

Cyberwarfare, unmanned drones and an “exponential” increase in special operations forces are three key technological capabilities Defense has today that it didn’t have when the global war on terror began, Dempsey said. While the department must continue to invest in technology, it should not “become enamored of shiny objects,” he said.

The chairman also emphasized the importance of transitioning military personnel to a stable civilian workforce while finding a better way to harness the younger generation’s “entrepreneurial” qualities as new recruits enter the armed forces.

“If we don’t get the people right, the rest of it won’t matter. We’re going to put the country at risk,” he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.