Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What Did DoD Know, and When Did It Know It?

For several days now, I have been (virtually) pounding the table, asking the question "what has changed?" in the past four months,  that DoD is now all of a sudden capable of exacting specificity as to the dire consequences of the sequester/continuing resolution bogies.  All of this, from readiness hits in the Army, to length of civilian furloughs, to cancellation of refuelings and deployments--was knowable in the Fall--as we stared down the barrel of what was then a "1 January" fiscal cliff, debt ceiling and sequestration trifecta.  Yet DoD officials restricted themselves to vague generalities about the consequences -- bound by an Administration gag-order that reportedly prohibited the Services/Agencies from planning excursions that would take these conditions under consideration, presumably fearful that such a dialogue would impact the President's re-election.

But now--now that the election is over, the "fiscal cliff" was averted with a $600B tax increase and the debt ceiling and sequestration issues were punted for a short period of time--DoD is bursting with specficity (as of mid January) about the dire consequences of sequestration and the CR, even as the President uses these Defense cuts as ammunition in his desire to obtain additional revenue to fund the government.  

Representative Randy Forbes (R-Va.) picked up on this during his questioning of the DoD panel before the full HASC today, using this graphic (provided by his office) to explicate his point:

With all due respect to DEPSECDEF Carter's earnest defense of his and SECDEF's warnings about the dangers DoD faced, there is a difference between general statements of woe and the actual, meaningful hits that the force will take that are now being released in an orchestrated manner to achieve political advantage.

One of two things seems to me to be true here.  Either planning was done and not released to the public or the Congress (presumably to limit political damage), or planning was not done in order to create plausible deniability about the obvious impacts that would follow (again, to limit political damage).  Perhaps there are other explanations, but none redound more to the benefit of DoD than either of these, and that isn't saying much.

General Odierno's statement in response to Rep. Forbes was classic, paraphrased here as "we didn't plan for it because we didn't think it would happen."

Congress (both parties) and the President created this mess, and I have some sympathy for those in DoD who are laboring to get through this disaster.  But the Department of Defense is complicit in the depth of the problem we face now--largely through its colluded silence.

Bryan McGrath






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