Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said sequestration would turn America's military into a "second-rate power." Top officers from each of the service branches have warned of what they say would be devastating practical effects if the roughly 9 percent across-the-board cuts go through.
A reduction in flight time would leave the Air Force unprepared to deter nuclear weapons and otherwise hamper its abilities, one general said in early February. A vast majority of Army units would not be able to fight any new enemies, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter said last week. The Navy would have to "drastically reduce" its overseas presence tasked with crisis response and counterterrorism, said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of Naval Operations.
The actual effect of cuts to these programs can be hard to visualize, particularly in reference to the gargantuan figures included within the more than half a trillion dollar defense budget.
U.S. News broke down the Fiscal Year 2012 Base Budget—which the military is still using through a Continuing Resolution from Congress, until it passes the FY13 budget. Check out these five graphs to get a better sense of the size and scope of the defense budget, and how these segments of the military, among others, would be affected.
Almost all of the Base Budget will face sequestration cuts except for Military Personnel, which President Barack Obama has exempted. That leaves three other chunks of defense spending, each valued at more than a hundred billion dollars, subject to the brunt of the cuts: Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (or creating the items the military will eventually buy); Procurement (actually buying those items); and Operation and Maintenance.
(Source, all charts: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense/CFO)
That last group is home to the funding for many of the disastrous effects of sequestration that have made headlines in recent weeks.
Check out this chart to see how the Operation and Maintenance budget is split up among the departments. Remember all numbers in these charts are in thousands so, for example, the Navy's Operation and Maintenance budget listed here is just over $45 billion.
These are the funds largely for short-term equipment that keep military branches up and moving. It includes fuel, travel, and smaller construction projects. It also includes the budget for recruitment and training new troops, as well as advanced skills such as flight training.
Producing the equipment that the military will use and maintain falls under its budget for Research, Development, Test & Evaluation, or RDT&E.
This part of the budget holds much of what the military pays contractors, as well as government institutions, to do: create any kind of system the military needs. This could include a weapon system, such as the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which after years of delay and cost overruns is now considered the most expensive single military expenditure in history.
This budget could also include an information system such as a new piece of software. These funds are also used to pay for the equipment that tests any new products, and the salaries of those who conduct RDT&E.
Military branches turn to their Procurement budget when it comes time to actually buy any of this equipment:
Purchases can include items as large as jets, ships, tanks, or missiles, all the way down to bombs, bullets, hammers, and circuit breakers.
The last of the multi-billion dollar defense budgets is for military personnel.
Obama has said he is exempting this budget from the sweeping sequestration cuts. This part of the budget includes pay for all members of the military, including reservists and cadets at service academies. It also accounts for the funds to pay for their housing and travel.