Budget cuts could harm future US crisis response: Marine head

Commandant of the US Marine Corps General James Amos testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the impact of sequestration on the national defense, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Nov 7, 2013. Budget cuts could threaten the Unit
Commandant of the US Marine Corps General James Amos testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the impact of sequestration on the national defense, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Nov 7, 2013. Budget cuts could threaten the United States (US) military's ability to respond to future Philippines typhoon-style aid crises, the head of America's Marine Corps said on Saturday. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

SIMI VALLEY, United States (AFP) - Budget cuts could threaten the United States (US) military's ability to respond to future Philippines typhoon-style aid crises, the head of America's Marine Corps said on Saturday.

General James Amos touted the role the United States is playing in response to the latest disaster, with another 1,000 US Marines being deployed to support emergency relief operations in the Philippines following Super Typhoon Haiyan.

But he said America was not doing enough training and preparations for such natural disasters, and said budget restrictions and the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester could jeopardise future aid missions.

"We're not doing much of that right now, because it costs money. It's training and exercise money," he said at a defence conference in California, talking about practicing and preparing for natural disasters.

"Where I think the problem will come in will be the ability to have the money to deploy the ships," he told a small group of reporters.

"We may, although it's hard for me to imagine, get to a point where we say 'We can't do that, we can't help, because we don't have the... operation and maintenance money to be able to deploy those ships.'" Mr Amos noted that budget officials will call from doing "less with less" as they face the sequester.

But "I've got 43 years in this business, we're going to do the same with less," the Marine commandant said.

"We're a benevolent nation... (But) we could reach reach a point where quite frankly we don't have enough money to deploy or move."

The sequester was devised as a poison-pill austerity program in 2012, with mandatory cuts spread over 10 years aiming to force battling Republicans and Democrats to compromise on a long-term program to reduce the country's deficit.

But a deal never came and the White House was forced to lop US$85 billion from spending between March and the end of the fiscal year on September 30, with nearly half of that from defense programs.

The first round of defense cuts under sequestration cut US$37 billion in fiscal 2013 from the military, which is racing for US$52 billion (S$65 billion) in additional cuts in fiscal 2014 - about 10 per cent of its budget.