Pentagon chief sounds alarm over US budget cuts

Pentagon chief sounds alarm over US budget cuts

SIMI VALLEY, United States - Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel sounded an alarm bell Saturday about budget cuts he said threaten America's security and global military role, while "gambling" over the risk of an unexpected threat.

The cuts, which amount to nearly US$1 trillion (S$1.24 trillion) for the Department of Defence over a decade, were "too steep, too deep and too abrupt," Hagel told a defence conference in California.

"This is an irresponsible way to govern, and it forces the department into a very bad set of choices."

Automatic cuts of US$52 billion set to take place in fiscal 2014 represent 10 per cent of the Pentagon budget.

The Navy's global presence is already down 10 per cent since sequestration began in March, while the Army has cancelled training rotations for 15 per cent of its forces and the Air Force 25 per cent of its training events.

"The effects will be felt for a long period of time to come. By continuing to cancel training for non-deploying personnel, we will create a backlog of training requirements that could take years to recover from," Hagel said.

"These cuts are too steep, too deep, too abrupt."

The defence chief was speaking at the Ronald Reagan Defence Forum, a one-day event hosted at the late US leader's presidential library northwest of Los Angeles.

The Pentagon has made clear to Congress and the White House "the growing difficulties we face in training, equipping and preparing our forces under a cloud of budget restraints and uncertainty," Hagel said.

"These challenges are often not visible, but they are very very real, and they will become more visible as they further jeopardize the security of our country as our readiness, capability and capacity continue to deteriorate."

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