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US Southern Command boss Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee, March 12, 2015. Screen shot photo.

US Southern Command boss Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly said if sequester returns in full force in Fiscal 2016, “It will essentially put me out of business.” Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Kelly said, “simply put” sequestration would be a “catastrophe” to his command. “I have very, very little to work with now,” he added. He said the command utilizes small groups of airmen, soldiers, sailors, and marines in its partner engagement, but under sequester, “I will no longer be able to partner almost at all with the nations that we work with every day.” He used the drug trade to illustrate his point. Last year, SOUTHCOM and the agencies it works with collected some 158 metric tons of cocaine “without violence, before it ever even made it to Central America." However, under sequester, Kelly estimates they would be “lucky” to get 20 tons, “and all the rest of it just comes into the United States.” Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of US Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, who testified alongside Kelly, listed the top five threats to the homeland, noting that sequestration is the “most likely and most dangerous.” The other threats include the possibility a terrorist or criminal organization will use “seams” between combatant commands and interagency partners to move something that could “do great damage to our nation.” Gortney said he also is concerned about home-grown extremists, cyber attacks, the possibility of North Korea shooting a ballistic missile against the US, China, and Russia. (Gortney prepared testimony) (Kelly written statement)