Hagel Seeks to Stop Defense Cuts; Defense Secretary Worries about Military's Readiness If Cuts Aren't Rescinded

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned lawmakers Wednesday of severe and unacceptable effects on the U.S. military if Congress doesn't end the automatic spending cuts projected to slice $52 billion from the defense budget for 2014.

The budget reductions would reduce the size, readiness and technological superiority of the military, placing "at much greater risk the country's ability to meet our current national security requirements," Hagel wrote in a letter to the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Hagel told Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., that the Defense Department hopes to avoid a second year of furloughs of civilian personnel during the 2014 budget year that begins Oct. 1. But he says if the cuts stay in effect, the department will have to consider involuntary reductions in force to reduce personnel costs.

About 85 percent of the department's nearly 900,000 civilians around the world will be furloughed one day each week over the next three months as a result of the across-the-board cuts in the current budget year.

The letter was the strongest statement to date from Hagel pushing back against congressional resistance to alternative Pentagon proposals to save money. The administration has called for another round of domestic base closings, elimination of several weapons systems, a speedier drawdown in the size of the Army and Marine Corps, and increased fees for health care. …