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Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and other service chiefs detailed to Congress on Tuesday how the federal budget crisis will hurt the U.S. military, while acknowledging that a new spending proposal now under consideration could provide relief.
Amos, speaking to the House Appropriations Committee, said he was "heartened by what I saw come across my computer screen yesterday afternoon," a reference to the possibility that a new draft National Defense Authorization Act spending bill or continuing resolution for spending could be approved. Doing so would halt some of the painful budget cuts put in place by sequestration, the mandatory spending reductions set in motion Friday by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Republicans controlling the House moved Monday to ease the most significant cuts on the military, which would still bear a $43 billion cut over just seven months. The new GOP measure would leave in place automatic cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 7.8 percent to the Pentagon ordered Friday by President Barack Obama but award the Defense Department its proposed 2013 budget while other agencies would be frozen in place at 2012 levels.
"Quite honestly, the world is looking at us, as a nation, both our enemies and our friends, to determine which way we're going to go," Amos told the committee. "So thank you for [considering the new measures], and I look forward to hopefully a successful passing in the House and in the Senate as well."
Amos, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Staff of the Army Ray Odierno and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh outlined in testimony how the drastic spending cuts would hurt service members and the military's ability to do its job, with Amos' warnings particularly stark.
Amos said the Corps' fiscal 2013 budget included $716 million set aside for the development of infrastructure, the replacement of inadequate facilities at bases and stations, and the construction of facilities for professional education and aviation. He cited the planned relocation of an unidentified MV-22B Osprey squadron from Marine Corps Station Miramar, Calif., to Hawaii and fueling facilities for the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter in Japan as examples.
Amos, repeating points he has made to Congress several times in recent weeks, added that he has kept deploying units ready in recent months by using money dedicated to long-term readiness. By early 2014, he said, more than 50 percent of the Corps' tactical units will be below minimum levels of readiness for combat unless restrictions on spending are eased.
"Because of our unique role as America's crisis-response force, Marines place a premium on maintaining a high state of readiness," Amos said. "I have done everything within my current authorities to preserve the tenets of a ready Marine Corps. I will continue to do so until I run out of money."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.