“There is no doubt that we are going through a very challenging time in this country,” he said. “We are beginning to emerge out of a decade of war, but facing economic hardship, record debt, and a partisan paralysis in our political system that is threatening our ability to tackle these problems and find the solutions that have to be found if we are to maintain our leadership in the world.”
As the wars wind down, Panetta is working with the President and service chiefs to create a roadmap for the future of our military.
“We know that the military of the 21st century will be smaller. But even if smaller, it must be supremely capable and effective as a force to deal with a range of security challenges,” Panetta said.
“We cannot afford to ignore essential capabilities we have let lapse and we absolutely cannot allow budget pressures to force the services into parochialism and program survival mode,” he added.
Over the next 10 years, the Department of Defense will be required to reduce its projected spending by more than $450 billion. In order to achieve this, the Secretary has called on the services to bury their respective budget perspectives and work as a team to find at least $450 billion in savings through 2021.
How can we achieve this? The Secretary listed four areas to achieve savings:
- Efficiencies: “We are considering an aggressive target of $60 billion in additional efficiencies over the next five years.”
- Personnel costs: “Since 2001, costs for military compensation and health care have risen by about 80 percent while military end strength has increased less than 5 percent.”
- Force structure: “…recognizing that a smaller, highly capable and ready force is preferable to a larger, hollow force. While some limited reductions can take place, I must be able to maintain a sufficient force to confront the potential of having to fight more than one war.”
- Modernization and procurement: “In this fiscal environment, every program, contract and facility will be scrutinized for savings that won’t reduce readiness or our ability to perform essential missions.”
The Secretary has yet to specify what options/program reductions the Pentagon is considering. So, what does this mean for us?
Reduced size of the Armed Forces
Its no secret the Corps has begun downsizing from the 202K plus-up of 2008. Initial enlistment and reenlistment opportunities have already gotten more competitive and will probably continue in this fashion for some time. The Corps has also recently altered its service limitations for sergeants from 12, down to 10 years. Simply put, a Marine has to be promoted to staff sergeant before they reach their 10-year mark, if they wish to continue their service. The other services can expect to see similar downsizing efforts.
Recently, the Secretary has reassured active-duty service members that he would protect their retirement benefits and if any changes should come, they would be grandfathered in. In yesterday’s address however, he said he’d address that issue when he could.
Reduced personnel costs
Aside from downsizing, and reducing the soaring cost of healthcare for military retirees and their beneficiaries, the Secretary indicated that the administration may also look at the annual pay raises as a budget cutting option.