Gordon Adams is a former Clinton administration defense budget analyst and has written extensively on the current “fiscal cliff” crisis. The Naval Institute interviewed him on 28 November to get his take on sequestration and the defense budget. Adams is speaking today at the Naval Institute’s Defense Forum Washington.
Can you put current sequestration in a historical context? Has anything like this happened before?
Yes, but never to this extent.
The sequestration mechanism was lifted wholesale from a 1985 bill called Graham Rudman Hollings. When it was passed in 1985 it was the last big U.S. effort in deficit and debt reduction. The sequestration mechanism was defined in that bill. . . . There were sequestrations under Graham Rudman Hollings. They were rather small, they were not on this order of magnitude, because this one actually sets targets, but they did happen. Once they happened, Congress reversed it. Basically fixed it, patched the hole. So that happened and they went away. It maybe one precedent for what would happen in January if there is a sequester. I don’t think we will, but if we do . . .
What we have here is an unprecedented showdown at the O.K. Corral.
Proceedings, December 2012
In early November the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) returned home to Norfolk, Virginia, to prepare for her December 2012 inactivation. Her final deployment lasted seven and a half months, during which time she steamed nearly 90,000 miles throughout the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the Arabian Sea.
U.S. Navy Photo
This marks the 25th homecoming for the nation’s first and longest-serving nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Built by Newport News Shipbuilding, the Enterprise was laid down early in 1958, launched in September 1961, and commissioned on 25 November 1962. She has participated in every major U.S. conflict since the Cuban Missile Crisis. She is 1,088 feet long, has a beam of 248 feet, and a full-load displacement of more than 93,000 tons. The Enterprise is not due to be replaced in service until around 2015, when the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) joins the Fleet.
It’s been a little more than six months since two prominent Senate Armed Services Committee Republicans took aim at efforts underway within the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a national biofuels market. During the Committee’s May, 24th mark-up of this year’s defense authorization bill, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and the panel’s Ranking Member, John McCain (R-AZ), pushed through separate amendments that would have ended the Department’s pursuit of advanced renewable fuels.
The bill reported out of Committee included Inhofe’s amendment that prohibits the Pentagon from buying alternative fuels if their up-front cost is higher than that of traditional fossil fuels. Language added by McCain and backed by Inhofe banned the DoD from building or retooling refineries to produce biofuels. But in the last two weeks, talks on the energy issue intensified, sparked by a letter to Senate leadership signed by 38 members. The topic of biofuels emerged as a key sticking point, Senate aides said.
Fuels Distribution Systems Operator David Riggs, from Fleet Logistic Center Puget Sound Manchester Fuel Department, secures a fueling hose during a biofuels transfer to the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187). Henry J. Kaiser took on 900,000 gallons of a 50/50 blend of advanced biofuels and is scheduled to deliver the biofuels to platforms participating in the Great Green Fleet demonstration during the exercise Rim of the Pacific 2012. U.S. Navy Photo
The November, 16th letter led by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and joined by 35 other Democrats, Independent Joe Lieberman (CT) and Republican Susan Collins (ME) called the Inhofe and McCain provisions “harmful and counterproductive” and expressed strong support for “the ability of military leaders to develop and employ alternative fuels.”
Rep. J. Randy Forbes is chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee. The Virginia Republican has held several hearings on naval readiness in the current Congress. He will be part of a panel on the looming fiscal cliff— that could result in a 10 percent reduction in defense spending—at Defense Forum Washington hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute next week.
Rep. Forbes, you said Wednesday that you’re expecting to see sequestration in some form in January. Could you expand on that?
Obviously we are still hopeful to divert sequestration from taking place. The clock is ticking. We continue to believe that defense has already paid its share and shouldn’t be cut in such an arbitrary and drastic fashion. But it’s going to take an awful lot to keep from going over the cliff.
Naval History, December 2012
The helicopter revealed its potential in Korea. As the Marine Corps honed close air support in the years since, it has assumed a key role.
Marine Helicopters in Vietnam, U.S. Naval Institute Archives
Marine Corps aviation, in “its organization, equipment, and training . . . should be primarily oriented toward performance of close air support.” So wrote a special board in its confidential 1947 report to the commandant of the Marine Corps. Although the Marines’ first “official” use of close air support (CAS) had come in 1927 in Nicaragua, 20 years later the bond between the service’s air and ground forces had not yet been cemented fully. That would occur a few years later in the Chosin Reservoir campaign in Korea—arguably the birthplace of the Marine air-ground task force.
The first look at video of Chinese carrier operations recently released shows China has been paying attention to the way flight deck operations are safely conducted by the U.S. and other navies. Flight deck crew personnel jersey colors and hand signals are similar to international standards. There seem to be two sailors at every position, indicating that one of them is “under instruction.” There seems little doubt that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is above the aircraft carrier learning curve, albeit in good weather and basic operations. Potential material problems lie in Liaoning’s very long construction period, which likely have resulted in significant structural problems, and with its pressure-fired steam propulsion system, which historically has been difficult to maintain and operate efficiently.
An undated photograph onboard the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning during a take-off and landing test. Xinhua News Agency Photo
China’s Carrier History
Beijing first acquired an aircraft carrier in 1985, when it bought the ex-Australian Melbourne. Engineers studied the World War II-designed ship in detail before it was scrapped. Next, during the 1990s came two former Soviet aircraft carriers—Minsk and Kiev—both purchased to serve as theme park attractions in China. Those ships were actually called “heavy aviation cruisers” by Moscow, so the first modern aircraft carrier to arrive in China was another ex-Soviet ship, the Varyag.
Proceedings, November 2012
To maintain their unique capabilities, the Sea Services must master the art of navigating budgets in the Age of Austerity.
Under the authority of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and without congressional action, automatic across-the-board cuts—“sequestration”—will occur in the Department of Defense budget in January 2013. 1 The likelihood and the consequences of this event are still uncertain, but projections by the Congressional Research Service suggest total cuts to the Defense budget in the vicinity of $500 billion over the next decade; similar cuts would be made in non-Defense spending. That this would be severe is not in doubt: Employment reductions from changes in equipment procurement in California alone are projected at nearly 126,000, with national changes in employment at more than 5.8 million. 2
Austerity budgets may prove to be the most challenging obstacle the Navy and Marine Corps have seen in a generation. Yet as painful as they may be, they must be faced. And successfully facing them begins with first developing an understanding of the current macroeconomic position of the United States, and ends with developing an effective budgetary strategy. Additionally, it will be critical to remember that Defense budgets do not exist in isolation. All actions and their costs must be gauged both against the entire federal budget as well as the larger U.S. macro-economy.
Cid Standifer is a freelance reporter, web designer and translator based in Arlington, Va. She has written for Military Times, Inside Washington Publishers and the Roswell Daily Record.
Despite billions of dollars being raised and spent during the 2012 election cycle, last Tuesday changed very little in terms of the balance of power. Control of the House, Senate and White House remains the same, though Democrats picked up a handful of seats in Congress and the names and faces on the four defense committees also will be reshuffled in the next session. Still, there is a long list of priorities to be taken care of before the new Congress is sworn in at the beginning of January. Here are some of the biggest items in the national security arena:
What it is: In order to avert a crunch on U.S. borrowing last year, Congress and the President agreed to a deal that raised the debt ceiling but required the House and Senate to cut spending over the long term. The Budget Control Act required a bipartisan panel from the House and Senate to craft compromise legislation that would slash the debt by $1.5 trillion dollars. In the event a compromise could not be reached, an automatic trigger was put into place that would go into effect in January 2013. The trigger was designed to be a poison pill that compelled cooperation, but the deadline for compromise lapsed in November and started the clock ticking toward automatic across-the-board cuts totaling $500 billion each to defense and domestic discretionary spending over the next decade. In DOD, personnel accounts would be spared but shipbuilding plans, fighter programs, and ground vehicle modernization would all suffer equal cuts.
The so-called congressional super committee in 2011
Inside politics: Moderates in the House and Senate have backed a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases that include an end to the Bush-era tax cuts, reforms of the tax code and some changes to entitlement programs. Once, dubbed the “grand bargain,” widespread support has been fickle as each of the factions on the Hill and at the White House angled for better, more politically palatable deals. House Republicans as a bloc have steadfastly refused to back any bill that would increase taxes, but most agree that more revenues must be a part of any deal to cut long-term expenditures. Some Democrats have opposed any change to entitlements, though most members agree that the current system is not wholly sustainable.
Proceedings, November 2012
An unconventional spin on the Marine tradition of forcible amphibious entry could counter modern A2/AD threats—at little expense and with minimal training.
The year is 2020. A country has attacked a U.S. ally and seized multiple islands. Simultaneously, it has flooded the area with guided rockets, artillery, mortars and missiles (G-RAMMs). Intelligence has identified three separate anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) and anti-air (AA) locations on one island that must be destroyed before a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group or amphibious ready group (ARG) can aid our ally. Intelligence also suggests the enemy has hidden mobile ASCM and AA capabilities. All assets are protected by a dispersed, company-size enemy force. Through commercial and proprietary satellite coverage, the aggressor can locate and target U.S. Navy ships. That country does not know, however, where U.S. submarines are.
The President convenes the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and asks what can be done.
Marines operate from the USS Hawaii U.S. Marine Corps photo
“We can execute precision-guided munition (PGM) strikes,” the chairman responds, “but that cannot guarantee the destruction of all sites, nor can the destruction of sites we hit be confirmed. Nor can we guarantee destruction of the enemy’s mobile weapons using PGMs alone.”The Chief of Naval Operations observes: “Until the ASCM and AA threat are destroyed, we can’t move our $14 billion aircraft carrier (USS Gerald R. Ford) or $4 billion amphibious assault ship (USS America) within 300 miles of that island.”
“Mr. President,” notes the commander, Special Operations Command, “we have some ability to confirm the destruction of the sites, but limited manpower prevents us from securing terrain or destroying enemy garrisons.”