In a press conference held earlier today Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the senate Armed Services Committee, emphasized that congressional members on both sides of the aisle agree that sequestration would be devastating for the Department of Defense. What they disagree on, based on Levin’s remarks and updates coming from both sides of the aisle, is how to do it.
At the National Press Club Levin, Gen. James Cartwright, retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and David H. Langstaff, president and chief executive officer of TASC, Inc. briefed reports on the topic of “National Security on a Shoestring: How to balance national and homeland security with budget realities.” “Congress wants to avoid sequestration,” said Levin. “The big problem is how we’ll do it.”
Levin emphasized that everything needed to be on the table, from cutting spending – including entitlements – to raising revenue. Levin was cautious in using the phrase “tax increase” but continually noted that “raising revenue” was the heart of the defense budget and sequestration issue.
Military leaders acknowledge that budgets will be cut. Cartwright outlined that today’s defense drawdown will be different than any other following such a prolonged period of conflict, as today’s force is, for the first-time, an all-volunteer force. Cartwright emphasized that retaining quality as the military draws down would be key, and that there are many questions to work through.
Today’s military is already down 11 percent from peak numbers, said Cartwright, but leaders and bean counters know that historically that figure will need to double as reductions of 20-25 percent of the force occur. Langstaff, representing the defense industry in the discussion, emphasized the importance of evaluating the budget based on the mission.
“It’s an integrated approach we need to take,” said Langstaff. “Sequestration – cutting all programs equally – is absolutely the wrong approach.”
With all parties agreeing that sequestration is the wrong way to cut the defense budget, the question that still looms is whether members of congress can establish the compromise to ensure it doesn’t happen. With many arguing that tax increases aren’t the option – and others, like Levin, arguing that increasing revenue must be the first step, it appears there’s still a ways to go before they arrive at a solution.
Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com.