Debt ceiling negotiations: Milley warns US default would harm troop readiness

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley holds a press briefing with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on Thursday, May 25, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) Kevin Wolf/AP

Debt ceiling negotiations: Milley warns US default would harm troop readiness

Misty Severi

May 25, 05:25 PM May 25, 05:25 PM

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Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Thursday that if the United States defaults on its loans, it will harm the readiness of U.S. troops.

Milley said that if Congress and the White House fail to reach an agreement in the debt limit negotiations, it would negatively affect the military and have “unambiguous implications” on national security.


“I think there’s no doubt whatsoever that there would be a very significant negative impact on the readiness, morale, and capabilities of the United States military if we defaulted and didn’t reach a debt ceiling thing,” Milley told reporters during a press conference Thursday. “I think it would be very, very significant without a doubt in that [it would have] absolutely clear, unambiguous implications on national security.”

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are negotiating whether to raise the debt limit, which controls how much the Treasury Department can borrow from other countries. If no deal is reached before June, the government may not be able to repay its debts.

Milley’s comments echo sentiments shared by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this month. However, a default would be unprecedented, and it is not clear what would be affected first.

“There’s just a number of things that we’re working with allies and partners on that would come into question as to whether or not we’ll be able to execute programs,” Austin told lawmakers. “Most importantly, this will affect the livelihood of our of our troops and our civilians.”

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Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, also warned of the dangers of a default, saying he believed a default could be “catastrophic” for U.S. forces.

“There’s impacts on sailors, service members, and their families, but also … the arsenal of democracy across America that supports everything that we do would be dramatically affected,” Gilday told National Defense Magazine.

“I think the confidence piece is absolutely critical here — not just allies and partners as they look at the United States but also our own confidence in ourselves, which is so important in a fighting force,” he added. “I think that the potential here could be catastrophic for us, and I don’t say that lightly.”

The U.S. reached its debt ceiling in January, but Congress was given a June 1 deadline for when the federal government would not be able to pay its bills. That deadline is in a week, but the date that the country would apparently truly be unable to pay its debts is likely a few days later.

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