If sequestration continues into fiscal year 2014, the Defense Department will be forced to consider involuntary reductions-in-force for the civilian workforce, draconian cuts to military personnel accounts and a virtual halt to military modernization, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a letter to Senate leaders July 10.
The senators had requested detailed information on how continued sequestration could affect the military.
In the letter, Hagel detailed the "Plan B" the department must confront if Congress does not pass legislation that averts sequestration in fiscal 2014. If the process continues, DOD will be forced to cut $52 billion more from the budget that year.
Hagel stressed in the letter that he fully supports President Barack Obama's fiscal 2014 budget request and noted that if sequestration remains in effect, "the size, readiness and technological superiority of our military will be reduced, placing at much greater risk the country's ability to meet our current national security commitments."
Congress gave DOD some flexibility to handle the cuts need for fiscal 2013, but more than 650,000 DOD civilians must still be furloughed without pay for 11 days. However, the cuts in 2014 are too great even for flexibility within accounts to handle.
DOD hopes to avoid furloughs in 2014, the defense secretary said, but if sequestration remains in effect, "DOD will have to consider involuntary reductions-in-force to reduce civilian personnel costs."
Readiness has already been diminished this year, Hagel said, and it will continue to decline if sequestration continues in 2014. Hiring freezes will also continue and facilities maintenance funds will further erode, he added.
If the sequestration mechanism is applied to military personnel funding, "DOD could accommodate the required reductions only by putting into place an extremely severe package of military personnel actions including halting all accessions, ending all permanent-change-of-station moves, stopping discretionary bonuses and freezing all promotions," Hagel wrote.
He called on Congress to work with the department to avoid sequestration in fiscal 2014 and to approve the president's defense budget request.
The president's budget request slows military pay raises and raises fees for some military retiree's health care. It also looks to retire older Air Force and Navy assets and calls for a new base realignment and closure program.
"If the cuts continue, the department will have to make sharp cuts with far-reaching consequences, including limiting combat power, reducing readiness and undermining the national security interests of the United States," Hagel said.