Secretary Hagel has finally answered the mail, addressing the impact that a $52 billion sequester cut would have on the defense budget the president requested for Fiscal Year 2014. His July 10 letter — which responds to a request from Senators Carl Levin and James Inhofe, the chair and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee — is full of bad news and seriously misses an opportunity to start some real planning for a defense drawdown that is underway, with or without sequestration.
Hagel’s letter is refreshing in one respect. It does not hyperventilate, unlike the rhetoric used by Secretary Panetta, for whom even one year of sequestration (currently playing in a budget theater near you) was a “doomsday” event that would reduce the United States to a “second rate power.” That has not happened, so Hagel is more careful. He says that, if further cuts are implemented, “the size, readiness and technological superiority of our military will be reduced, placing at much greater risk the country’s ability to meet our national security commitments.” And he is cautious about its impact on strategy.
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