A Second Pearl Harbor
Summoning the memory of the 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie warned that cuts to the Navy could leave the state's naval base vulnerable to attack. "The plain fact is, that will undermine our capacity for readiness at Pearl Harbor," he told Congress on Saturday. He said the cuts could force a work-time reduction of nearly 19,000 full-time Pearl Harbor workers and made specific reference to the World War II assault. "At Pearl Harbor right now, which I hope everybody can understand symbolizes what happens when you're not prepared," he said, "we'll be laying off 19,000 people."
The reality? A once-in-a-generation surprise attack is probably not a realistic threat, as even Abercrombie later admitted. "I'm talking about institutionally," he said, adding that the cuts wouldn't pose "an immediate threat or anything like that."
An Emboldened Iran
If Iran isn't afraid of U.S. military might, what's to stop it from developing a nuclear weapon? That's the scare theory proposed by Republican lawmakers who are worried about the redeployment of U.S. aircraft carriers from the Persian Gulf region due to budgetary woes. As it stands, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower will be the only aircraft carrier looming near Iran's shores. (There used to be three.) Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) on Wednesday accused the administration of believing "we don't have to do anything" to check Iran's nuclear progress. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made similar remarks earlier this month. "I'm sure Iran is very supportive of sequestration," he said, referring to the budget cuts.
Others have suggested that Republicans are overstating their case. "Most nations, Iran included, don't have any carriers. And aircraft carriers do not travel alone: they travel in battle groups," wrote Wired's Spencer Ackerman. "The Eisenhower's includes eight aircraft squadrons; three guided-missile destroyers; and a guided-missile cruiser. Then there are all of the minesweepers, helicopters and patrol boats already in the region. Pretty much no other navy is capable of keeping that kind of seapower on station in a financial crunch." In other words, it's not as if the Navy is hoisting up a white flag off the Iranian coast.
A Practically Empty Pentagon
Last week, Panetta warned Congress that sequestration could force the Pentagon to furlough the "vast majority" of the department's 800,000 civilian workers. "There is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force," Panetta said. Of course, if you're picturing vast swaths of empty cubicles, that's probably the wrong visual: The belt-tightening would mean workers lose one workday per week and 20 percent of their pay for 22 weeks starting in April.