President Obama warned Congress about the possible effects of sequestration during a rare visit to the Pentagon on Wednesday, saying lawmakers needed to make sure the military has “the equipment and the technology that’s necessary for them to be able to succeed at their mission.”
“We have done some enormous work, and I want to thank everybody sitting around this table to continue to make our forces leaner, meaner, more effective, more tailored to the particular challenges that we’re going to face in the 21st century,” Obama said following a meeting with Pentagon leadership.
“But we also have to make sure that Congress is working with us to avoid, for example, some of the draconian cuts that are called for in sequestration.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has warned that if sequestration cuts are implemented in the next fiscal year, development on crucial military projects could stall.
“The scale and timeline of continued sequestration-level cuts would require greater reductions in the military’s size, reach and margin of technological superiority,” Hagel said earlier this year. “Under sequestration spending levels, we would be gambling that our military will not be required to respond to multiple major contingencies at the same time.”
Hagel has said the Army would shed 20,000 active-duty soldiers if sequestration cuts take effect, a step that would endanger its ability to fight two major conflicts at the same time. The National Guard would also lose 40,000 soldiers, while the Army Reserve would draw down 20,000 soldiers, Hagel said.
Similarly, the Navy would lay up six additional ships and halt two years of F-35 purchases. The Air Force would retire 80 more aircraft and delay its purchases of new planes, according to the Pentagon.
The argument against defense cuts is likely to see renewed attention now that the president has launched an expansive military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Following his briefing, Obama cautioned that the ISIS fight “remains a difficult mission.”
“As I’ve indicated from the start, this is not something that is going to be solved overnight,” the president said.
Later Wednesday, the president plans to huddle with his national security team at the White House to discuss the fight against ISIS. Earlier in the day, press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration was “deeply concerned” by the terror group’s advancement toward the border town of Kobani. Human rights officials have warned that the Kurdish townspeople there face slaughter at the hands of ISIS if coalition airstrikes are unable to turn the tide.
The Pentagon is also coordinating the administration’s response to the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Western Africa.
“Our military is essentially building an infrastructure that does not exist in order to facilitate the transport of personnel and equipment and supplies to deal with this deadly epidemic and disease,” Obama said.