Transcript: Testimony of U.S. Air Force General Norton Schwartz on the impacts of defense sequestration
House Armed Services Committee hearing on “The Future of the Military Services and Consequences of Defense Sequestration” held on Nov. 2, 2011
Testimony of General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force:
“Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Smith, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.
“I’m privileged to be a part of this panel of service chiefs to share the obligation of service leadership with them and to represent the nation’s airmen.
“I think that we can all agree that our men and women in uniform deserve all the support and resources that we can provide them in their vital mission of protecting the nation. And on their behalf, I thank you for your ongoing efforts to ensure that we care for our service members and their families.
“In this time of sustained fiscal pressures, the Air Force joins its OSD teammates in helping to solve the nation’s debt crisis.
“Last year, the Air Force identified $33 billion in efficiencies as part of the broader department defense effort to reallocate $100 billion from overhead to operational and modernization requirements.
“The Air Force subsequently found an additional $10 billion in the course of completing the 2012 budget.
“We will continue to make extremely difficult decisions to prioritize limited resources and prepare for a wide range of security threats that the nation will potentially face.
“But these difficult choices to assure effectiveness in a very dynamic, strategic, and fiscal environment must be based on strategic considerations – not compelled solely by budget targets. We must prudently evaluate the future security environment, deliberately accept risks, and devise strategies that mitigate those risks in order to maintain a capable and effective – if smaller – military force.
“Otherwise, a non-strategy-based approach that proposes cuts without correlation to national security priorities and core defense capabilities will lead to a hollow out force – similar to those that followed to a greater or lesser degree every major conflict since World War I.
“If we fail to avoid the ill-conceived across-the-board cuts, we again will be left with a military with aging equipment, extremely stressed human resources with less than adequate training, and ultimately declining readiness and effectiveness.
“Those of us at the table who remember when we faced a similar difficult situation in the years after Vietnam and the Cold War. We therefore join Secretary [Leon] Panetta and Chairman [Martin] Dempsey in advising against across-the-board cuts, particularly the sweeping cuts pursuant to the Budget Control Act sequester provision.
“At a minimum, they would slash all of our investment accounts, including our top priority modernization programs such as the KC-46 the tanker, the F-35 joint strike fighter, the MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft, and the future long-range strike bomber.
“They would raid our operation and maintenance accounts, forcing the curtailment of important daily operation and sustainment efforts.
“And they would inflict other second and third order effects, some of them currently unforeseen, that will surely diminish the effectiveness and the well-being of our airmen and their families.
“Ultimately, such a scenario gravely undermines our ability to protect the nation. But beyond the manner in which the potential budget cuts are executed, even the most thoroughly deliberated strategy will not be able to overcome the dire consequences if cuts go far beyond $450 billion plus in anticipated national security budget reductions over the next 10 years. This is true whether cuts are directed by sequestration or by Joint Select Committee proposal or whether they are deliberately targeted or across-the-board.
“From the ongoing DOD budget review, we are confident that further spending reductions beyond the Budget Control Act’s first round of cuts cannot be done without substantially altering our core military capabilities and therefore our national security.
“From the perspective of the Air Force, further cuts will amount to further reductions in our end strength, continuing aging and reductions in the Air Force’s fleet of fighters, strategic bombers, air lifters, and tankers as well as to associated bases and infrastructure, and adverse effects on training and readiness, which has been in decline since 2003.
“Most noticeably, deeper cuts will amount to diminished capacity to execute concurrent missions across the spectrum of operations and over the vast distances of the globe.
“So while the nation has become accustomed to and perhaps has come to rely on effective execution of wide-ranging operations in rapid succession or even simultaneously, we will have to accept reduced coverage in future similar concurrent scenarios if further cuts to the national security budget are allowed to take effect.
“For example, the Air Force’s simultaneous response to crisis situations in Japan and Libya all the while sustaining our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq will be substantially less likely happen in the future. As would effective response to other scenarios like Operations Tomodachi and Unified Protector requiring concurrent actions spanning across the globe and the operational spectrum – in this case, from humanitarian relief in East Asia to combat and related support in North Africa.
“In short, Mr. Chairman, your Air Force will be a superbly capable and unrivaled – bar none – in its ability to provide wide-ranging, game-changing air power for the nation. But as a matter of simple physical limitation, it will be able to accomplish fewer tasks in fewer places in any given period of time.
“While we are committed to doing our part to bring the nation back to a more robust economy, we are also convinced that we need not forsake national security to achieve fiscal stability. We believe that a strategy-based approach to the necessary budget cuts and keeping those cuts at a reasonable level will put us on an acceptable path.
“Mr. Chairman, Congressman Smith, and members of the committee, on behalf of the men and women of the United States Air Force, I thank you for your support of our airmen and certainly their joint teammates and their families. I’ll look forward to your question sir, thank you.”
- House Armed Services Committee
- General Norton Schwartz’s written testimony (PDF)
- General Norton Schwartz’s biographical information (PDF)
- Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction’s website
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