U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s recent assertion that the Marine Corps could be forced to shutter one of its recruit depots has added a new cultural dynamic to the gloomy forecast about sequestration, the series of federal budget cuts looming if the U.S. government doesn’t find another way to reduce its deficit.
Graham, a South Carolina Republican, told constituents in his home state recently that the Corps may have to consolidate the recruit depots in San Diego and Parris Island, S.C., if sequestration goes through. His comments resulted in media coverage like this, and have raised some eyebrows in Washington.
Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, told Marine Corps Times the senator believes the Corps “probably won’t be able to keep both” depots open if sequestration happens. Graham, an influential member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, repeatedly has raised concerns that sequestration must be avoided to prevent defense cuts he sees as reckless and unwise.
The automatic cuts planned were created as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, a federal statute that put in place drastic spending reductions in national security and domestic programs if Congress fails to find a way to reduce the deficit. It calls for $600 billion in budget cuts over 10 years at the Pentagon if no other agreements are reached by January.
Top U.S. officers have warned repeatedly that the cuts would have devastating effects on the military, but had not previously raised the prospect of Parris Island or MCRD San Diego closing. Boot camp training at both installations has been mythologized in popular culture for years, giving Graham an interesting, tangible angle to highlight his concerns.
Capt. Kendra Motz, a spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters, said Tuesday that the Corps and Defense Department as a whole still have not begun planning for sequestration. President Obama’s defense budget is planned by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which to date has not put out any sequestration planning guidance, she said.
In testimony to Congress last month, Assistant Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford did not mention the possible closure of a recruit depot, but said sequestration would force the Corps to cut 18,000 additional Marines on top of the service’s currently planned drawdown from about 202,100 Marines last year to 182,100. Doing so likely would result in some Marines being forced out quickly and unfairly, he warned.
“These are the very people who are in Afghanistan today forward-deployed, forward-engaged, in harm’s way,” Dunford said. “And their reward when they come home will simply be to dismiss [them]and shake their hand. And I think that would be a mistake.”