From a relatively local yokel paper, among the best issue summaries I’ve seen. From my foxhole in the Pentagon, things are bad now and appear to be getting worse fast.
Fayetteville (NC) Observer
July 19, 2013
Nation Needs Leadership, Not Gimmicks
At Fort Bragg, a name almost synonymous with “readiness,” Congress is idly flirting with unreadiness.
Says who? Said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a Monday visit appropriately set at the Green Ramp: “We have planes not flying, ships not sailing and soldiers not training. We are doing damage to our readiness, to our future readiness.”
Thus far, casual onlookers have found it easy to dismiss the blind, automatic budget cuts called the sequester as political theater. No Independence Day fireworks display this year; maybe something goes unpainted a while longer. Big deal.
For 8,500 civilian workers caught in a furlough (worldwide, the number is well over half a million) it has already ended. They’ll lose about 20 percent of their pay for five months – a loss that will be hardest on them, but one that will also affect counties surrounding the fort.
Soldiers and their dependents won’t lose pay, but they already face reduced clinic hours and other inconveniences.
Hagel and military commanders offer assurance that the armed forces will, as always, rise to the occasion and do whatever it takes to maintain readiness. Consequences for the nation’s fighting forces are expected to be gradual. But the secretary did raise the specter of eventual force reduction if nothing changes.
Oh, yeah. It’s serious. It is also the law of the land, and will continue for a decade unless Congress repeals it.
Two questions demand the attention of serious-minded people.
First: What’s it all for? This is not serious budgeting, and few in Congress even pretend that it is. The sequester is a bogeyman the lawmakers stitched together to scare themselves into behaving responsibly. It didn’t work.
Second: Where will U.S. troops be needed 18 hours from now, or 18 months, or five years out? Nobody knows.
The reassurances from the Department of Defense are sincere, reflecting a grim determination and a commitment that is absolute. But the cold truth is that the military, like other federal departments, can’t spin straw into gold. The game must be brought to an end long before things reach that sorry state.
Doing that will require nothing less than a cooperative effort among all parties in both chambers of Congress, with the commander in chief prominently on board.
There will be no better time, only worse ones, for the politicians to destroy their mad creation and govern like grownups.