Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was not mincing words when he spoke to about 300 Defense Department employees in Charleston, South Carolina the other day- the sequestration cuts are bad and they might get worse as they could continue into next year.
Hagel got gasps and a few low whistles as he told the mostly middle-aged civilian employees that “those are the facts of life.” Hagel noted that future layoffs within the Defense Department’s civilian workforce of more than 800,000 if Congress doesn’t reverse the cuts in the next budget year, which begins on 1 October.
The announcement came just after the first furlough days began to hit. The politically unpopular cuts come as the military winds down after more than a decade of war. Congressional Republicans refused to cut with a scalpel, and instead decided to attack spending across the board with an axe leading to massive sequestration cuts which have hurt everyone from military contractors to the legal defense funds for the needy.
After a stop by Hagel at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Army Master Sergeant Trey Corrales told reporters “Everybody’s bracing for the impact. . .The effects of the economy have started to hit the military. It was late in coming to us.” His wife is a military civilian employee and the couple have already had to cancel their cable and start carpooling.
The effects of the sequestration cuts to the military have hit Virginia where it could end up effecting this year’s gubernatorial race.
Beyond hitting the civilian workforce, the cuts have slowed healthcare for veterans and causes equipment shortages and stopped training for service personnel currently in the military. The Army has already announced plans to reduce their levels by about 80,000.
Hagel told roughly 100 civilians at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, FL that the military had not been ready for the cuts and apologized to them for the pain this is causing the families. A research and engineering manager at the base’s fleet readiness center Elizabeth Nealin told Hagel that “I’m sure you realize how disruptive the furlough is to our productivity. So I’m hoping that we’re not going to do it again next year. Have you planned for a reduction in force?”
Hagel made it clear that, if the cuts remain in place, “there will be further cuts in personnel, make no mistake about that. I don’t have any choice.”
The cuts have finally forced the military to look at the luxurious lifestyles of the top brass and how much that ends up costing the US military in waste.
Following the Cold War’s end, President Bill Clinton slowly drew down military spending. That changed after 9/11 and the push for war in Afghanistan and then Iraq under President George W. Bush. Attempts to draw back the military spending were often blocked by the Republicans despite the fact that the military often demanded that Congress stop handing them useless trinkets just because Congress didn’t want to deal with cutting a handful of jobs back home.
Hagel hopes to find more fat that can be trimmed, and would be able to do so much more effectively if he had the discretion to cut where there is fat rather than across the board.
In Charleston, Sandra Walker asked Hagel “I’ve taken a second job to compensate, because I have several children at home, and if we are going to have future furloughs, will those things be taken into consideration for the future of our jobs?”
All Hagel could say was “There’s no good news.”