If the appointed super committee cannot reach a consensus on $1.5 trillion dollars in deficit cuts over a 10-year period by Nov. 23, then $1.2 trillion dollars of automatic cuts will kick into effect, much of the cuts coming from the department of defense.
On Oct. 11, Defense Secretary Panetta spoke at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Panetta said that even without a potential for automatic cuts, scheduled cuts to the military are great. By 2020, funding for the military will be the lowest since before World War II, putting the nation’s military strength below 9/11 levels.
Today there are 569,400 members of the Army. Based on current funding, that number would be reduced to 481,000. If the super committee fails to reach an agreement over defense cuts, that number would be further reduced to 426,000.
The same holds true for the Marine Corps. With a current force of 202,000 members, they also face a future reduction down to 173,000 troops—145,000 if the super committee fails.
Secretary Panetta said in his speech, “I refuse to be a witness to fate.” He followed, “We are strong because of our willingness to invest body and soul in a military that can defend our country, protect our values, and advance our interest in the world.”
The economy would also be affected by a decrease in military contracts, the closure of U.S. shipyards, and a 0.034 percent reduction to GDP. According to Secretary Panetta, at least 1,000,000 jobs would be lost in a sequestration scenario.
Defense Secretary Panetta said, “Given the nature of today’s security landscape, we can not afford to repeat the mistake of past reductions in force that followed WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the fall of the Iron Curtain, which to varying degrees as a result to across the board cuts, weakened our military.
"We must avoid at all costs a hollow military," he warned. "One that lacks efficient training and equipment to adapt to surprises and uncertainty, a defining feature of the security feature we confront. We can not and we must not repeat the mistakes of the past."
According to a report from the House Armed Service Committee, one downside of the cuts would be in our ability for deterrence. The cuts would significantly undermine the nuclear triad, which protects the United States and 31 of our allies. The nuclear triad refers to the military’s arsenal of strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine launched ballistic missiles.
It would also result in an increased threat to nuclear proliferation, according to the report, giving us less warning about nuclear launches, and reducing our ability to respond to nuclear threats.
The committee’s report also stated that such cuts would lead to an, “Inability to rapidly reconstitute critical skills in response to emergent threats.”
Although the debate is heated on both sides of defense spending, it is does seem clear that the cuts will dramatically change the structure and subsequent strategy of the U.S. military.