Transcript: Testimony of Gen. James Amos on the impacts of sequestration on the Marines

Transcript of testimony of Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, on the impacts of sequestration. The Senate Armed Services Committee hearing was held on Feb. 12, 2013.

Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Inhofe, committee members, thank you for the opportunity to testify before this committee on the potential impacts of sequestration. This topic is one of high importance with implications not only to our fiscal health but also our Nation’s necessary leadership in the global community.

Speaking as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a critical measure of the effectiveness of our Armed Forces is its readiness.

Sequestration by its magnitude, its timing, and its methodology will have a devastating impact on readiness both short-term and long. Combined with the effects of the existing continuing resolution, sequestration creates unacceptable risk, risk to our strategy, risk to our forces, risk to our people, and lastly risk to our Nation.

Regarding strategy, maintaining a free international economic system and a just international order are linchpins to our Defense Strategic Guidance. The effects of disruption to this global order are readily observed in rollercoaster energy prices, fluctuating global markets, sovereign behavior, and economic uncertainty.

Failing to provide leadership in the collective security of this global order would have significant economic consequences for the American people. Worse, the lapse in American leadership would create a void in which old threats would be unaddressed and new security challenges would find room to grow. There should be no misunderstanding. The combined effect of the continuing resolution and sequestration will have deleterious effect on the stability of global order, the perceptions of our enemies, and the confidence of our allies.

Sequestration should not be viewed solely as a budget issue. Our collective actions in the next months will be scrutinized on a global stage and even the perception of a disruption of our Nation’s ability to protect its global interests could well have strategic consequences.

Regarding risk to our forces, the linkage between resources and readiness is immediate and visible. The scale and abrupt implementation of sequestration will have devastating impacts on readiness. Sequestration will leave ships in ports, aircraft grounded for want of necessary maintenance and flying hours, units only partially trained and reset after 12 years of continuous combat, and modernization programs cancelled.

Because of our special role as America’s crisis response force, marines place a high premium on readiness.

I have done everything in my authorities to date to preserve the tenets of a ready Marine Corps. I will continue to do so. Under a continuing resolution, I have kept deploying units ready but only by stripping away the foundations of the long-term readiness of the total force.

While these short-term adaptations are possible, the enduring effects of some of these decisions put us at an unsustainable tipping point. By the end of this year, more than 50 percent of my combat units will be below minimal acceptable levels of readiness for deployment to combat.

In a sense, we are eating our seed corn to feed current demands, leaving less to plant for the long-term capabilities of the force. This pattern inevitably leads to a hollow force and its impacts are already being felt under the continuing resolution.

The most troubling and immediate risks are those that sequestration imposes on our people. Sequestration does not hurt things. It hurts people. The qualitative edge that the American servicemember takes to the battlefield is the fundamental advantage that differentiates our forces from our enemies. This qualitative combat edge will be severely eroded by the impacts of sequestration, leaving marines and other servicemembers with inadequate training, degraded equipment, and reduced survivability.

While military pay and allowances have been exempted in this round of sequester, the quality of life for the All-Volunteer Force and their families will inevitably suffer as we reduce family programs and installation maintenance.

Our civilian marines will likewise be impacted. The 95 percent of our civilian workforce that is employed well outside the confines of the National Capital Region are the guards at our gates, our budget experts who pay our bills, our acquisition professionals, the therapists who treat our wounded the experts who repair our equipment, and finally the teachers who instruct our children.

The economic impacts to these families and their local communities are put at risk by either short-term furlough or long-term termination. Protecting our ability to keep faith with our wounded warriors is a top priority in my Marine Corps, but even this, this most sacred of responsibilities, will increasingly be placed at risk.

In closing, allow me to articulate one more set of risks, the risk to our Nation. In the final analysis, sequestration asks the most from those who have borne the greatest sacrifice. It invalidates the careful planning of the services to manage a predictable resource decline, replacing it instead with a dramatic resourcing cliff that guarantees inefficiency, waste, and its accommodation.

The effects of sequestration over the long term will threaten the foundations of the All-Volunteer Force, putting the Nation’s security on a vector that is potentially ruinous. It dramatically shapes perceptions of our Government as both an employer and as a customer, reducing confidence throughout institutions.

These are all risks that demand our immediate attention and action. By its scale, timing, and inflexibility in implementation, sequestration greatly aggravates our national risk profile, all at a time of strategic rebalancing and change. I urge the committee to consider the full range of risks created by this legislation and ask for your assistance in mitigating them to the extent possible.

Thank you and I look forward to answering your questions.

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