DOD intelligence chiefs sounds alarm on sequester

Intelligence officials have been relatively quiet during the ongoing debate of sequestration's impact to defense and national security. 

But with less than three days until reductions totaling roughly $500 billion hit the Pentagon, "the foundation on which our national security environment rests" is now at severe risk, Undersecretary for Defense on Intelligence Michael Vickers told House defense lawmakers.  

Testifying alongside Vickers during Wednesday's hearing of the House Armed Services emerging threats and intelligence subpanel, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) chief Lt. Gen Michael Flynn said his agency and other defense intelligence efforts would be hardest hit by the cuts. 

Department leaders are already planning to furlough nearly all of the Pentagon's 800,000-strong civilian workforce, with DOD and the service chiefs eyeing forced retirements of uniformed personnel to meet the cuts outlined under sequestration. 

While no service or DOD agency would be immune to those personnel reductions, Flynn argued that DIA would have the most to lose when those workforce cuts begin. 

Since so much of DIA work is manpower intensive, from DIA agents collecting intelligence in hot spots across the globe to the teams of analysts evaluating that raw intelligence, the cuts could cripple the agency's ability to do its job. 

The problem is compounded, given the relatively small force DIA and DOD's overall intelligence apparatus has compared to the various services and larger organizations inside the Pentagon.

DOD intelligence has just over 180,000 civilian and military personnel working under its banner, with nearly half of those employees being non-military, according to Vickers. 

Under sequestration, Pentagon intelligence would be forced to furlough over half of its entire workforce. 

"We can't accomplish our mission," under such reductions, Flynn said. Defense and national security decision makers can't "appreciate the cost of missed intelligence" until its gone via sequestration, the three-star general said. 

His comments fall in line with those made by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, said the intelligence community would be setting itself up for failure, in light of the personnel losses under sequestration. 

"Whatever happens in the political debate over sequestration, as [director of national intelligence], I have to protect our ability to carry out the business of intelligence," he said in a Wednesday interview with WTOP radio. 

"I can't do that if our people -- the intelligence professionals who are responsible for gathering the intelligence that helps protect us -- are not on the job," Clapper said. 

While DOD and civilian intelligence leaders will do what they can to offset sequestration's effect, Flynn said the cuts could set the stage for the "rehashing of another major intelligence failure" by the United States.