Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel continued educating members of the DOD about his plan for dealing with harsh budget cuts imposed on his department by Congress.
During Monday’s national VFW convention in Louisville, Kentucky, Hagel said the cuts “are having and will continue to have very damaging effects.” The Department of Defense is charged with preserving military readiness in the face of sequestration-mandated budget cuts totaling $37 billion.
Hagel told the assembled crowd of active-duty veterans, civilians, and contractors that leaders at the Pentagon have been forced to make “very difficult decisions to reduce, stop and defer many activities and programs that keep our military prepared to fight.”
According to information published on the Department of Defense website, the DOD must absorb “$52 billion in cuts next year and a total of $500 billion in cuts over the next decade [unless the law is changed]… on top of the $487 million in reductions over 10 years that are already being made.”
“These cuts are forcing us to make tough but necessary decisions to prioritize missions and capabilities around our core responsibility, which is the security of our country,” Hagel said. He cited “realignment and redefinition” department-wide that would be required after ending and shifting focus from missions in Iraq and Afghanistan that consumed the decade post-9/11. The current systems were “designed for different strategic and budgetary realities” than the U.S. faces today and will face in the future.
Last week, Hagel announced a 20% cut to top-level Pentagon staff over the next six years, in a move to trim the department of some of the bureaucracy it became saddled with after the 9/11 attacks.
Hagel emphasized the need to reign in “unsustainable growth in personnel costs” during Monday’s address, which he said accounts for half of the DOD’s total budget and limits resources for training and modernization.
“Every dollar we spend on large staffs, large headquarters and overhead, or facilities that we don’t need, is a dollar that we don’t have available to spend on readiness training and equipment for our troops–or on sustaining other vital programs that help support our people and their families,” Hagel said.