Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff: “Sequestration Would Result in Hollow Force”

February 14, 2012

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey spoke about the risks involved in President Obama's 2013 budget proposal:

LEON PANETTA: Lastly, as I said, when you shave the budget by half a trillion dollars, it leaves very little margin of error. That, I think, is probably the biggest risk of all.

MARTIN DEMPSEY: If I have time, Senator, I would like to respond. I will preview my risk assessment for you. I did not assess unacceptable risk; I don’t believe this budget incurs unacceptable risk. I will tell you that I am prepared to say that sequestration would pose unacceptable risk, and here is why. It is important to note, it is pretty clear, there is physics involved. In this budget, we have decided to off-ramp a certain number of servicemen and women. We have about maxed out our ability to do that with the proper dignity and respect to the force. So 10,000 to 15,000 a year is about as many as you can ask to leave and still have enough influence on how they do that. That is kind of maxed out right now. It is pretty clear that we will have challenges to infrastructure and changes to it, whether this committee and others agree with recommendation for brac. So if we fix these two variables in sequestration, I can't ask soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to leave quicker than they are going to leave, and I can't touch infrastructure, sequestration leaves me three places to go to find the additional money—operations, maintenance, and training.  That’s the definition of a hollow force.