Sequester Could Delay U.S. Arms Exports

WASHINGTON — The shock waves of broad-ranging U.S. defense spending cuts will be felt well beyond its borders, touching everything from funding for foreign militaries to longer approval for U.S. defense exports to Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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Sequestration will "be felt at home, resulting in a loss of [weapons] sales to U.S. industry and a potential loss of U.S. jobs,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a Feb. 11 letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. (AFP)

Training and partnership engagements with allies will likely decline, as well, as the Defense Department is hit with a $46 billion cut to its fiscal 2013 budget, which runs through Sept. 30.

International outreach efforts will likely suffer because DoD plans to raid nonwar budget accounts — such as procurement and research and development — to pay for operations in Afghanistan, which are also subject to sequestration spending cuts. Those cuts officially went into effect last week.

This has raised concerns among allies about how these cuts will affect international deliveries of weapons and equipment built by U.S. manufacturers.

Sequestration could delay in approval of U.S. defense exports, according to experts. Since the 800,000 civilian employees at DoD are facing unpaid leave through furloughs, many of the offices that process foreign military sales and requests will have fewer workers on a daily basis. Even if a sale is underway, the civilian furloughs could slow the sales.

“This raises more than ever the issue of exactly how does the U.S. prioritize which sales of what and to whom get put at the front of the line,” said David Berteau, senior vice president and director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank in Washington.

A CSIS force posture study found there is no process for prioritization of U.S. foreign military sales.

“Without that priority, there tends to be a whole lot of other factors that determine what gets sold and when,” Berteau said. Within NATO, there is a “pretty good mechanism” for ranking purchases based on available money, he added.

“We have much less ability to do that in other parts of the world, and in particular we found at CSIS the absence of any framework in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “When you have a constraint on resources and fewer people to process [the sales], the need for priority becomes greater at the very time in which we don’t have it.”

Many allies have raised questions about how the budget cuts will affect F-35 Joint Strike Fighter purchases. Eight countries contribute to the development of the Lockheed Martin-built jet and other nations, such as Israel and Japan, are in the process of buying the aircraft.

Sequestration will cut about $500 million in security assistance, according to a Feb. 11 U.S. State Department memo. The effects would be felt in some way by more than 150 countries.

Of that $500 million, $300 million would be cut from foreign military financing, grants or loans that the U.S. gives to countries so they can buy U.S.-made weapons. These cuts could reduce assistance to Israel, Jordan and Egypt, the memo states.

“This cut will be felt at home, resulting in a loss of sales to U.S. industry and a potential loss of U.S. jobs,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a Feb. 11 letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

Another $20 million would be cut from international peacekeeping missions and $35 million from efforts to “counter terror, prevent loose and dangerous weapons from falling into the wrong hands and supervise the safe destruction of conventional weapons.”

Foreign governments have expressed concerns about how sequestration would affect their military interaction with DoD and their security writ large.

DoD frequently participates in training and partnering missions in the U.S. and overseas. These engagements range from humanitarian response drills to special operations training.

Through NATO, the U.S. Air Force occasionally conducts air policing in the Baltic region. The U.S. military often participates in training exercises across Europe, Asia and Africa.

“[Sequester] could impact not only our readiness, but, frankly, the role that we would play with regards to the readiness of NATO, as well,” said former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during a Feb. 22 press briefing at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

U.S. officials have said the effects of sequestration would be disastrous to the U.S. military as a whole. While the fiscal 2013 sequestration budget cut for DoD is about $46 billion, the cuts total about $500 billion from planned spending figures over 10 years. The Pentagon has already slowed contract awards in the U.S. and pay-ments to contractors. It has also deferred maintenance at bases.

If the spending cuts are in place long-term, DoD has said it would need to relook at its broad-ranging military strategy, which calls for a greater emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region. In 2012, the Pentagon conducted more than 170 exercises in the Pacific.

“The Joint Chiefs are responsible for balancing global responsibilities, for looking at ways to do things sometimes directly ourselves, sometimes through partners in a region,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Feb. 12 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “And I think what you’re hearing today is that our ability to do that is going to be called into doubt, given the effects of sequestration.”

Last year, the Pentagon trimmed $487 billion in planned spending from its 10-year budget projections. To make up for some of those cuts, DoD has looked to increase the foreign sales of U.S. systems. DoD and the State Department have also worked to ease export restrictions to make foreign sales easier.

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