Special operations not immune to sequester cuts, commander says

U.S. Special Operations Command chief Adm. William McRaven warned Thursday that special operations forces are at risk of being hit by the budget cuts under sequestration.

While the special operations budget is set to grow in the Pentagon’s current spending request, McRaven said that if the sequester is not averted, it’s only a matter of time before the cuts will be felt and his forces will be “taxed” by sequestration.

“Make no mistake about it, the budget will affect us either directly or, as it affects the services, it will effect us,” McRaven said at a forum hosted by the Wilson Center.

The Pentagon has long warned about the widespread consequences of sequestration cuts. The Defense Department is preparing to cut $41 billion in 2013, and its 2014 budget request could get slashed by another $52 billion if the sequester is not eliminated.

But the Pentagon has prioritized the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) — and its budget — as special operations forces have played a key role in Iraq and Afghanistan and the increasingly splintered fight against al Qaeda.

In a speech given without prepared remarks, McRaven said that even if the SOCOM budget isn’t hit directly, his command would be affected due to the cuts to the services, because every special operations mission relies on the support of the services.

“We don’t do anything that doesn’t have a service component to it,” McRaven said, listing the use of an Air Force C-17 or Navy submarine to move forces into place as one example. “This is something that is frequently misunderstood.”

McRaven said that he is working with the office of Defense secretary and Joint Staff to articulate what his command is providing to the military.