New SecDef Sets Stage for Engagement in MSO Community
Col. Walker M. Williams III, USAF (Ret)
ROA National President
Last Thursday and Friday, ROA’s National President attended an ongoing series of two-day Secretary of Defense Roundtable discussions with military service organizations and veterans service organizations. This was the first roundtable with the new SECDEF, Secretary Chuck Hagel, and he spent over an hour with the group. Other briefings and discussions were with key OSD and Service personnel.
Since sequestration has now been implemented, its impact on DoD was a main topic of this meeting. The only good news recently is that the Continuing Resolution for FY 13, passed by Congress last week, contained some relief in the sequestration area for the DoD. But the fact is that DoD must still take over $41 billion out of operations and investment accounts with only 6 months remaining in this fiscal year. We were briefed that, in order to protect overseas and wartime operations, the impacts will include: many active and Reserve Army brigade combat teams below readiness levels; Air Force and Navy/USMC flying units below readiness levels, including many wings not flying at all for the rest of the year: Navy deployments curtailed, including one carrier in the Gulf; furloughs damaging morale and productivity in almost every support area; and, increases in unit costs and delays in many investment programs.
The Department is already seeing the impact of rumors and reductions on both civilian and military morale and knows that this will impact overall productivity. The civilian furlough, previously announced, has been delayed until next week in order to determine if there can be any reductions in the furlough due to the CR. Even though military pay is exempt from sequestration, our dedicated service members and their families will suffer when seeing low readiness and impact across the board on their support programs.
The Secretary spent 1.5 hours with the group. After a few remarks, saying that he intended to continue these meetings on a regular basis, he went around the room asking us for comments on our major issues. I addressed the problem of possible “fair share cuts” during budget drills that could lead to breaking the operational Reserve, and that I hoped the recent RFPB report on life cycle costs of military personnel would be institutionalized within the Department. The Secretary responded in a positive manner, saying that we could not lose all the capability we had gained in the operational Reserve over the last two decades.
It is imperative that all of our members, no matter your political leaning, continue to contact your congressional delegation and demand an immediate end to this sequestration, which is not a way to run a government.