On the Senate floor on Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appeared to suggest that military training exercises — like the one that led to the deaths of seven Marines at the Hawthorne Army Depot — are compromised by the automatic sequestration cuts, prompting immediate criticism from Marine officials.
“Mr. President, it’s very important we continue training our military — so important,” Reid said. “But one of the things in the sequester is we need to cut back in training and maintenance. That’s the way sequester was written.”
After referring to a bill he has on the floor of the Senate that would allow the Defense Department some flexibility in reallocating resources affected by the sequester, Reid continued to insist that the automatic budget cuts are bad for the military.
“We have to be very vigilant,” Reid said. “We cut already huge amounts of money in deficit reduction. That’s just not appropriate, Mr. President, that our military can’t train and do the maintenance necessary. These men and women — these Marines were training there at Hawthorne, and with the sequester it’s going to cut this stuff back. I just hope everyone understands. Sacrifices made by our military — they are significant, being away from home, away from families, away from their country. And we have — sequester needs to go away.”
Later in the day on “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC, NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski indicated that there had been some pushback from Marine officials.
“Luke [Russert], you opened that segment with a sound bite from Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid expressing his condolences,” Miklaszewski said . But also during that statement, there was an implication there that under sequestration, when budgets are cut, that we may see more of these — that it may put the Marines and others and soldiers at risk because of the budget cuts.”
“Now I can tell you, Marine Corps officials this afternoon are taking a strong exception to what Harry Reid implied, saying that this this exercise, for example, was planned well in advance, had nothing to do with the budget cuts,” he continued. “There were no corners cut. And if they couldn’t afford to have all the safety precautions into place, they wouldn’t do the exercise. And in fact, one Marine Corps told us just, one Marine Corps official told us a short time ago, he considers this nothing but pure political posturing on the backs of these dead Marines.”