Today, Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will be in Groton, Connecticut visiting a shipyard where attack submarines are being built. It is expected that during his visit he will discuss how proposed spending cuts to the Department of Defense’s budget will adversely affect the nation, the industrial base, and the economy. It is a message that he and others, both civilian and military, have repeated often over the past month.
The message has been clear: sequestration would be devastating to our national security. Indeed, in a letter sent earlier this week by Secretary Panetta to Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, he wrote the following:
If the JSCDR fails to meet its targets and sequestration is triggered, DoD would face huge cuts in its budgets. Compared with the President’s budget plan for FY 2012, we are already planning on budget reductions over the next ten years of more than $450 billion. These cuts are difficult and will require us to take some risks, but they are manageable. If the maximum sequestration is triggered, the total cut will rise to about $1 trillion compared with the FY 2012 plan.
The impact of these cuts would be devastating for the Department.
The letter goes on to say:
Unfortunately, while large cuts are being imposed, the threats to national security would not be reduced. As a result, we would have to formulate a new security strategy that accepted substantial risk of not meeting our defense needs. A sequestration budget is not one that I could recommend.
For a copy of the full letter, click here.
While there has been much discussion of how the Department of Defense will be adversely affected, there seems to have been little publicly on how the Department of Homeland Security, also facing significant cuts, will fare. We have not seen Secretary Janet Napolitano out discussing how homeland security will be affected or think-tanks, experts, or others coming to the agency’s defense. Even Governors and local officials seem to be muted in their warnings.
Indeed, the only concerns that have been raised over the past few months that have gained penetrable media coverage have involved FY2012 appropriations legislation, especially concerns regarding cuts proposed by the House, and issues relating to disaster spending. The House cuts have largely focused on the research and science & technology budgets, which DHS has said will devastate its efforts on those fronts. The disaster spending issues, which Secretary Napolitano has been vocal on, involved the House Republican Leadership’s call for disaster spending to be offset by cuts elsewhere.
With the deadline for the Supercommittee fast approaching and sequestration lurking as a possible reality, it is disconcerting to see the Department not being more vocal on the effects it will have on our homeland security mission. It is likely that the Department of Defense will see a reprieve of some sort to ensure that our national security/defense mission remains intact. It is not clear the same can be said for homeland security. Even those of us who follow the agency closely do not have a clear message on how devastating sequestration will be to protecting our homeland.