By Marcus Weisgerber
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon must “fundamentally reshape” itself to adapt for a future of strategic and budgetary challenges, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday.
Speaking at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Louisville, Ky., Hagel laid out four principles “that will guide these efforts to realign and reshape our military”: prioritizing DoD’s missions and capabilities around the core responsibility of defending the US; maximizing the military’s combat power; and preserving and strengthening military readiness and honoring the service and sacrifice.
DoD was hit with a $37 billion reduction to its 2013 budget, which has sharply cut training and led to the furloughing of hundreds of thousands of civilian employees. Sequestration mandates about $500 billion in defense spending cuts over a 10-year period beginning this year.
“We have to prepare our institution for whatever comes,” Hagel said. “To that end, these cuts are forcing us to make tough but necessary decisions to prioritize missions and capabilities around our core responsibility, which is the security of our country.”
The Pentagon “must set clear, strategic priorities to implement the president’s Defense Strategic Guideline, within the framework of a new fiscal reality and fewer resources,” he said
The spending cuts are having “very damaging effects” on the military, Hagel said.
“To avoid a prolonged readiness crisis and the lasting damage it would inflict on our defense enterprise, I have given clear guidance to the services, guidance that they should not retain more people, equipment and infrastructure than they can support and afford to keep trained and ready,” he said. “This will require careful balancing.”
Hagel announced last week a 20 percent budget cut for his office, the Joint Staff and service headquarters, an effort that Pentagon officials say could save as much as $2 billion between 2015 and 2019.
“I expect these cuts to not only save us money, significant money, but also to result in organizations that are more effective and efficient, as well as more agile and versatile,” he said. “However, DoD will not be able to meet its budgetary savings requirements just through more efficient operations and headquarters reductions. It will require far more.”
To maximize combat power, “the department is going to have to deal with deep structural imbalances in our budget, particularly supporting infrastructure that has grown in size and expense,” Hagel said.
While many DoD missions and capabilities are “essential to defending the nation and our interests … some are not,” Hagel said.
Using the results for the strategic choices and management review — a two-month effort to determine military items to cut depending on the size of defense spending reductions — DoD is prioritizing “how we match missions to resources,” he said.