Mattis to DoD: Lighten Up on Sequester Talk

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The former head of U.S. Central Command has some advice for service leaders bemoaning sequester-mandated budget cuts that are forcing cutbacks in certain missions and damaging readiness: Stop it.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, speaking before an audience at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, said the complaints can have unintended and dangerous consequences for the U.S.

“For crying out loud, let’s have generals, admirals stop sucking their thumbs and talking about sequestration because, believe it or not, they keep talking about how we’re getting weak and North Korea or Iran might start to believe it. We’re not weak.”

The Defense Department is implementing $37 billion in reductions for the current fiscal year. Another $52 billion in sequester cuts looms ahead next year, and so on until the sequester chops $500 billion from federal spending over a 10-year period.

These cuts are on top of $487 billion in reductions over the next decade as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

To deal with the cuts, the Army has curtailed some training areas and the Navy is keeping some ships in port to keep maintenance costs down and focus on 2014 missions. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, speaking at a July 19 Pentagon press conference, said the mandatory furloughs of civilian employees are also taking a toll.

"It's an impact,” he said. “I feel it this week. It hurts our readiness, and it hurts our productivity as well."

Marine Corps Commandant James Amos told an audience earlier this month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that training missions critical for carrying out the planned “Pacific Pivot” -- growing U.S. military presence in Asia -- are jeopardized by the sequestration cuts.

"The cold reality of sequester has settled in," Amos said. “What we're going to have to do now is figure out how much we can afford."

Mattis does not dispute the seriousness of mandatory cuts.

“We’ve got to do something; we can’t let this go on,” he said. “And we’ve got to correct it soon. But don’t tell [adversaries] that you’re weak. And make darn sure you don’t tell your adversary what you’re not going to do in advance.”

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