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Pentagon head laments ‘too steep, too deep’ US budget cuts

Published time: November 17, 2013 13:10
Edited time: November 17, 2013 16:01
AFP Photo

AFP Photo

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has sounded an alarm bell about the budget cuts he says threaten America's security and global military role. The cuts are set to amount to almost $1 trillion for the Department of Defense over a decade.

In the fiscal year of 2014, automatic cuts of about $52 billion represent about 10 percent of the Pentagon budget. Hagel called the cuts "too steep, too deep and too abrupt."

"This is an irresponsible way to govern, and it forces the department into a very bad set of choices," the Defense Secretary added speaking at the Ronald Reagan Defense Forum in California.

The US Navy’s global presence is down 10 percent this year; the Army cancelled training rotations for 15 percent of the military, and the Air Force cut down on 25 percent of its training events.

"The effects will be felt for a long period of time to come. By continuing to cancel training for non-deploying personnel, we will create a backlog of training requirements that could take years to recover from," Hagel also said at the California event.

Defense Secretary Hagel warned that if a deal is not reached to stave off the deepest cuts, US forces might not be ready if another major conflict erupts unexpectedly.

"In effect, we would be gambling that we will not face a major contingency operation against a capable adversary in the near-term," Hagel said.

The budget crisis – and the ensuing cuts – came as the US military was drawing back after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks, AP reported. 

The inability of Republicans and Democrats to agree on solutions to economic problems led to the sequestration of the state budget in March. By the end of the fiscal year the budget had been slashed by $ 85 billion, while half of the cuts were imposed on the Pentagon, reducing funding for America’s defense.

Because of the cuts the US Army was forced to cancel six months of military training, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno in October. Officials are planning to  scale down the military, cutting the number of brigades from 45 to 33, while only two of them are fully-trained brigades comprising of 3,500 to 5,000 soldiers.

The cuts also forced the US Air Force to ground about one-third of its active-duty combat aircraft in April, which included squadrons of fighters, bombers, and airborne warning and control crafts.

The next sequester is expected to take place in January and it could potentially see the Defense Department’s budget cut by $21 billion.

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