Commandant Gen. Jim Amos testifies Thursday during a Senate hearing on the impacts of the sequestration budget cuts on the Marine Corps. (Colin Kelly/Staff)
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The commandant of the Marine Corps told a Senate panel that long-term, across-the-board sequestration budget cuts — meant to shrink spending and reduce debt — are actually costing the Marine Corps billions of wasted dollars due to inefficiency.
Speaking alongside the other service chiefs at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Nov. 7, Gen. Jim Amos said the more than 10 percent in budget reductions the Marines are being forced to make over a 10-year period means they cannot sign new multi-year contracts and are being forced to cancel some current ones, paying a penalty for doing so.
“In Marine aviation alone, it’s going to cost me $6.5 billion of inefficiences,” he said. “That’s four (F-35B Joint Strike Fighter) squadrons and two MV-22 Osprey squadrons.”
Amos reiterated his case for a Marine Corps end strength of no less than 174,000, saying the number represents “the largest force we can afford” — one that would maintain readiness, but accept significant future risks.
While members of the panel each agreed that sequestration is hurting national defense, some suggested that the military still has bloated expenses that could be cut back, including cost overruns in acquisition programs and ballooning military health care expenses.
“Do you know a single soldier, airman or Marine who joined the military because of Tricare?” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, said.
The Marine Corps took a hard look at cost-saving measures in fiscal year 2013, vetting temporary additional duty travel accounts and pulling some reservists off active duty. He remains open to other options, he said, and suggested that scale-backs of military pay increases or reductions to basic allowance for housing might be possible.
But he said the Corps still finished the year with all funds obligated.
“There’s really no more fat on our bones,” he said.
Most significantly, Amos said the cutbacks are forcing him to mortgage the readiness of tomorrow’s Marine Corps in order to make sure today’s troops are equipped for action.
“We are headed towards a force, in not too many years, that will be hollow back home and not ready to deploy,” he said. “And if they do deploy into harm’s way, we will end up with more casualties.”