Pentagon Warns of Consequences
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is preparing to leave his post, but he is sounding a warning alarm on his way out the door. In a speech at Georgetown University last week, Panetta warned of dire consequences if the so-called "sequestration cuts" take effect as scheduled on March 1st. Sequestration is a series of automatic federal spending cuts that includes an estimated $487 billion taken out of the defense budget over the next decade. In his speech, Panetta said those cuts would leave the Pentagon facing "the most serious readiness crisis in over a decade."
That readiness crisis is something retired Army General Bill McClain has seen before. "I was in the Army in the 70s when the military was really suffering," he tells KTRH. "Primarily from lack of funds, we had equipment that wouldn't run, we had barracks that were in dire need of repair...that can happen pretty quickly." Gen. McClain, who now serves as a special advisor to the president at Texas A&M-Galveston, says the effects of the cuts would be even more devastating now with the U.S. engaged in so many spots around the globe. "It's a dangerous world no matter how peaceful we think it may be, and readiness is not something that gets cranked up over night," he says.
Another area hit by the funding cuts is military pay. The Pentagon is recommending a 1% pay increase this year, down from 1.7% last year and below the Labor Department's estimated cost-of-living increase. Gen. McClain is not surprised by that. "At least it's still a pay raise," he says. "And considering all the other issues, it's not unreasonable to propose that." He is more concerned about actual job losses. "They may have to furlough civilian employees at least one day a week...a lot of people don't realize that a great deal of military administration is done by civilian employees." In Congress, both Republicans and Democrats want to avoid the sequestration cuts, but they are far from agreement on how to do it.
Watch Defense Sec. Leon Panetta's full speech at Georgetown University here.