March 12, 2014

The Defense Department agrees with The Post’s March 9 editorial that our fiscal 2015 budget makes logical choices, even as it depends on Congress to make some tough ones. But to call it, as the headline did, “a budget based on hope” is to ignore the truth.

First, we have laid out clearly what the department would look like if the “sequester” returns. We’d lose an aircraft carrier. We’d draw down the Army another 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers. We’d trim the Marine Corps more. And we would face much higher risk. Indeed, we would be gambling that our forces do not have to engage in multiple military operations simultaneously. That’s why we’re asking for $115 billion above sequestration levels over the four years after 2015 — to keep us ready for the worst-case threats The Post cited.

Second, there is the law of the land: the Budget Control Act as amended by the Bipartisan Budget Act. The latter gave us some relief from sequestration-level cuts in 2014 and 2015, but it still imposed a cut of about $75 billion below last year’s request. These reductions had to come from somewhere. We chose to cut forces and slow compensation growth and modernization while working to restore readiness. We preserved our ability to execute the president’s defense strategy, though with higher risks in some missions. We’ll still be able to rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. We’ll still focus on the Middle East. And we’ll still invest in vital capabilities such as cyberspace, outer space and special operations.

It wasn’t hope driving us. It was the law. And a heavy dose of reality.

Robert F. Hale, Arlington

The writer is comptroller for the Defense Department.

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