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Locklear16 Apr 15. Senior military commanders from the Asia-Pacific region told the Senate Armed Services Committee today how the strategy to rebalance military forces would face security consequences if the budget-cutting sequestration law returns in fiscal year 2016.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of Pacific Command, and Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/U.S. Forces Korea, testified on the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 and future years’ defense programs.

Sequestration is a provision of current budget law that mandates major across-the-board spending cuts in fiscal 2016, which begins Oct. 1.

Challenges such as the security environment across the Indo-Asia Pacific, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, an unpredictable North Korea government, territorial disputes and China’s continued military rise are concerns that “will not go away soon,” Locklear said.

And while the Asia rebalance strategy is achieving its goals, the greatest concern remains the continual uncertainty of sequestration, a law requiring major spending cuts that will take effect in October unless Congress changes it. If it returns, the Pacom commander said, the region would face national security consequences “as we respond to a rapidly changing world.”

Locklear said he echoes Defense Department and services’ leadership when he emphasized, “Our nation is being forced into a resource-driven national-security strategy instead of one properly resourced and driven by our enduring interests.”

More Risk in Asia-Pacific Region

The United States is accepting more risk, not less, in the Indo-Asia Pacific, he said.

“Sequestration will force harmful reductions in force size, structure and readiness that will reduce my ability to manage crisis space, provide options to the president and diminish United States prestige and credibility in the region and around the globe,” Locklear said.

In 2014 and at great expense to the readiness of the surge force’s position in the continental United States, Pacom has maintained its forward forces focused on protecting the homeland, Locklear said. The command has done so while deterring aggressors such as North Korea, strengthening alliances and partnerships, and developing concepts and capabilities to remain dominant “in a world that is growing in complexity, with threats that continue to increase against a seemingly unending stream of constraints,” he added.

“Without adequate resources, we will be forced to make difficult choices today that will have strategic consequences to our future,” Locklear said.

U.S.-Korea Alliance Strong

Scaparrotti said accomplishments last year proved that the strong alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea are more capable of addressing the rapidly evolving and increasing asymmetric North Korean threat.

North Korea’s cyber attacks on South Korea’s banks and broadcasting stations, in addition to boldly projecting their cyber capabilities against Sony Pictures in the United States, prove its attempts “to inflict economic damage, and pressure and suppress free speech,” Scaparrotti said.

Such acts last year represent a trend that’s persistent across North Korean asymmetric capabilities, he pointed out.

“My top concern is that we will have little to no warning of a North Korean asymmetric provocation, which can start a cycle of action and counteraction leading to unintended escalation,” Scaparrotti said. “This underscores the need for … the alliance to maintain a high level of readiness and vigilance.”

In 2015, the alliance momentum will focus on sustaining and strengthening the alliance with an emphasis on combined readiness, he said, calling it his priority.

The U.S. Forces Korea commander said it would include a rapid flow of ready forces into Korea and the early phases of hostilities, and improving intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and critical munitions.

“The return of sequestration would negatively impact these priorities, reduce readiness and delay deployment of the forces required to defend the Republic of Korea and U.S. interests,” Scaparrotti said.

“In crisis on the peninsula, this will result in more military and civilian casualties for the Republic of Korea and the United States and potentially place the mission at risk,” he said.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)

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