By Carlene Joseph, Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter, President, AUSA
It is important for and our Congressional leaders to know that they risk weakening our national security and the readiness and quality of life of our service members and their families, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and other military installations, throughout the South Sound and the State of Washington if sequestration is allowed to happen.
In January, the Army’s Chief of Staff, General Ray Ordierno, spoke at the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) January Institute of Land Warfare breakfast in Washington, DC and his message was clear – our national security is at risk because of the fiscal uncertainty that we face today.
Recently, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said, “Looming, massive cuts in the Defense Department budget, set to be triggered by sequestration next month, would pose the most serious readiness crisis to the country in over a decade.” Again, I’m concerned about our country and our local military installations.
Panetta also reiterated that “Sequestration guarantees that we hollow out the military. Across-the-board cuts would deeply damage U.S. national security, to include a serious disruption in defense programs and a sharp decline in military readiness.”
The budget reduction is sobering – a $6 billion shortfall for FY 13 in the Army’s operation and maintenance account because Congress failed to pass appropriations legislation and the Army must spend at the FY 12 budget levels. If sequestration triggers on March 1st another $6 billion shortfall will occur. Combined with other underfunding, the total shortfall for FY 13 could be $17 billion in wartime! This doesn’t even include monetary shortfalls for the Air Force! The bottom line is these indiscriminate cuts could have a severe impact on our military preparedness.
Sequestration will trigger significant reduction of training and readiness, a reduction of manpower, reduced support for service members and family programs, but most importantly, the safety of our service members will be in jeopardy. Our nation has been at war for nearly 12 years, and JBLM, as well as the State of Washington, has played a vital role. We have suffered many casualties and committed our sons and daughters to multiple deployments. The world continues to be a dangerous place, as evident in the Middle East and Africa. Our military cannot take a back seat while Washington D.C. politicians argue over the budget. We need leadership, and we need our Washington Congressional leaders to lead now! Without the appropriate funding, we risk not only the safety of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, we risk the safety of our future.
As a concerned citizen and the President of the AUSA Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter (supporting JBLM and Camp Murray), I urge our Congressional leadership to end sequestration before it becomes reality. The fiscal mess must be fixed so that JBLM, Camp Murray, and other military installations can maintain their readiness and their ability to defend this great nation of ours.