The Consequences of Sequestration
Image Credit: U.S. Navy (Flickr)

The Consequences of Sequestration


The upcoming budget sequester—slated to begin on March 1st—and the recent Defense Department decision to in effect cancel the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman to the Persian Gulf, are disturbing signals that without a significant change, the United States may be increasingly hard pressed to serve as the primary security guarantor for the world’s key sea lanes.The regions of highest concern for negative security impacts from U.S. defense budget paralysis are East and Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean.

A less formidable U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf—and the message it sends regarding the limits of American naval and military power more broadly—reverberate loud and clear in both friendly and hostile capitals around the globe. Perhaps even worse, the signals are particularly frightening in countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, and Singapore, who see a strong U.S. forward military presence as a guarantee that helps protect them from falling victim to the depredations of powerful neighbors like China.

If more powerful maritime countries like Japan and South Korea lose confidencein the U.S. ability to serve as an offshore balancer and peacekeeper, they will upgrade their militaries more rapidly, fueling regional naval competition. Meanwhile smaller powers like Singapore will be forced to hedge their diplomatic and security bets in ways that make them less reliable partners for the U.S, with ominous medium and long-term national security implications.

In conjunction with budget pressures, U.S. domestic oil production is rising and reducing U.S. reliance on oil imports. Indeed, Valero, the world’s largest independent oil refiner and product retailer, expects that by the end of 2013, refineries in the PADD III region (primarily the U.S. Gulf Coast), which account for half of the country’s total refining capacity, will no longer need to import light or medium crude oil because domestic production has risen so quickly. Budget pressures and reduced demand on imported oil in turn further increase the political temptation to treat U.S. forward deployed naval forces as an area ripe for budget cutting.

Doing so would have serious strategic consequences for the U.S. and many other countries with global trade interests. The U.S. has for the past 60 years been a peacemaking force in the global maritime commons because its unquestioned naval power, strong commitment visible to friend and foe alike, and relative diplomatic even-handedness in ensuring the safe passage of global trade–including oil, raw materials, and finished goods–across key maritime corridors regardless of their destination.

Fulfilling this critical role undeniably requires substantial military spending—but the strategic dividends of keeping global sea lanes open and wielding commensurate influence and power to proactively shape events far outweigh the dollar costs of keeping a critical mass of ships forward deployed. However, politicians on both sides of the aisle have so far failed to seriously consider that Washington’s budget stasis signals to other maritime stakeholders that the U.S. guarantee of free maritime passage and management of regional conflicts is less reliable than they thought. In turn, these countries—namely China (which already distrusts the U.S. guarantee), Japan, India, and South Korea—now have much greater incentives to build and operate naval forces capable of securing maritime national interests without Washington’s help.


[...] islets. This would repair the uneasy alliance between two former enemies and help to prevent future naval rivalries in Northeast Asia. Both South Korea and Japan will continue to play vital roles in preserving [...]

March 6, 2013 at 16:50

hey Lang1a,

First, China must withdraw its troops unconditionally from Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Manchuria etc., then the US will  consider whether to discuss other issues with China. Is it fair  enough?

[...] the overall lack of vision, the single greatest weakness of American grand strategy in 2013 is the strident and destructive tone of partisanship that envelops its domestic and foreign policies. Simply put, a politically divided or ideologically [...]

[...] the overall lack of vision, the single greatest weakness of American grand strategy in 2013 is the strident and destructive tone of partisanship that envelops its domestic and foreign policies. Simply put, a politically divided or ideologically [...]

March 5, 2013 at 22:10

LOL @ all the big empty talk from chinese posters.


Latest news - About 13 percent of China's population still live on less than $1.25 per day, the United Nations Development Programme says. That means over 160 million chinese still live in extreme poverty, more than the total population of most, if not all of its smaller neighbors.


Before you brag, take a look at yourself in the mirror first.

March 4, 2013 at 17:40

@Ritesh Garg,

"…..America in the recent times has become highly dependent on the foreign governments to by its soveirgn debt, China being the most influencial of them!!' It's just a myth, the very cheap propaganda!

There's no need for China to 'loan or fund' the US  any more( Buying US-Tbonds). The American institutions, individuals, the Fed & other countries such as Japan,  Saudi Arabia, Britain, Brazil, Canada etc. will take up the slack.  China better take care of itself. Its own debt time bomb is ticking!

Ritesh Garg
March 4, 2013 at 15:14

Sir, you are only looking at a single prospective of these budget cuts and subsiquent events. I appoligise for my frankness but you have failed to see the indirect impact of rising fiscal deficit spending of US. Its impact is growing more than just on its domestic equation. America in the recent times has become highly dependent on the foreign governments to by its soveirgn debt, China being the most influencial of them. The degree of this impact and influence is quite visible in US's failure to openly protest China's recent agressive moves towards its china sea neibhours including Japan and also its failure to take concrete actions against N. Korea for its provocative actions (including WMD developement). Even on economic front US is consistently loosing ground to China. 

That was about east asia, now lets talk about Gulf. As of today there is no greater force in gulf other than the combined presence of US and Nato troops. Iraq is cripled, Iran is surrounded Syria and Egypt are barely on their feets and Saudi is filled with US troops. Even today if you see the power of combined US armed forces in Iraq Kuwait and Saudi is the most powerful force in Gulf, a region with  no other foreign or domestic competition (considerable).

Coming back to Geopolitical scenario, it is a narrow minded thingking that in today's interlinked world only stockpiling of weapons can provide you with required level of influence essential for impacting global events. Infact failure of soveit union and degraded Russian influence is a living proof that huge pile of weapons cant gaurantee global influence. A week economy supported by a powerful army can do little justice and is bound to be crippled.

To end I would just like to say that a smaller US is much better than a weaker one. 

Ole Billy Joe
March 4, 2013 at 15:03

My, my ever so sensitive leoturd .. as if only your logic and reasoning is acceptable?!!  You're a CIA 5-cent troll.  Your credibility couldn't be lower than a snake's belly.

Kim's Uncle
March 4, 2013 at 13:08

The PRC is the most corrupt state in the history of the world so all this talk about china as being a superpower is a tad premature! A crude dictatorship that does take into account the will of its own people will not last. The complexity of a modern capitalist system as china continue to industrialize will only make it harder for the Communists to rule over their serfs.

The gulf between the corrupt ruling class and the peasants will be china’s undoing. Just wait for a financial crisis, environmental crisis, etnic crisis etc. and the edifice will fall crumbling to ashes!

March 4, 2013 at 12:58


Just do the simplest math. How many states in the world , particularly in the Asia-Pacific are China's ' friends & allies'?  North Korea, Pakistan, or Iran? It's 'too much', right? If China wants to be a world player, it must earn respect & trust from other countries but absolutely not through bullying, intimidation, or coercion.

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