Army Chief of Staff takes blunt message to Capitol Hill
POSTED: Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 8:08pm
UPDATED: Friday, September 20, 2013 - 8:29am
Washington (Army News Service) — The Army's chief of staff told lawmakers if they don't mitigate reductions under the Budget Control Act, 85 percent of brigade combat teams would be ill-prepared for contingency requirements by the end of fiscal year 2014.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno was blunt as he testified Sept. 18, 2013, to the House Armed Services Committee. His statistic on the Budget Control Act, or BCT, readiness included both active and reserve-component brigades, if the speed and magnitude of cuts are not stopped.
Odierno and other service chiefs said the Budget Control Act coupled with sequestration will have a long-term impact on the country's readiness and modernization.
"We'll be required to end, restructure or delay over 100 acquisition programs, putting at risk the Ground Combat Vehicle program, the Armed Aerial Scout, the production and modernization of our aviation programs, system upgrade for unmanned aerial vehicles and the modernization of our air defense command-and-control systems just to name a few," warned Odierno.
The chief continued that not until fiscal years 2018 to 2023 would readiness in modernization begin to rebalance, but it would also come at the expense of significant reductions in end-strength and force structure. Presently, the active Army is slated to drop from a war-time high of 570,000 to 490,000 Soldiers by fiscal year 2017.
Further budget cuts would bring that number down to 420,000 in the active Army, 315,000 in the National Guard and 185,000 in the Army Reserve.
"This will represent a total Army end-strength reduction of more than 18 percent over seven years; a 26 percent reduction in the active Army, a 12 percent reduction in the Army National Guard, and a 9 percent reduction in the U.S. Army Reserve," he said.
"Additionally, this will result in a 45 percent reduction in active Army brigade combat teams. That means less tanks, less Bradleys, less trucks, less M-16s, less mortars, less artillery systems ... it impacts all of our workload, because we're getting smaller," he added. "In my view, these reductions will put at substantial risk our ability to conduct even one sustained major combat operation."
The general noted that he believes with full sequestration, the Army cannot meet the defense strategic guidance established in 2012. He said one of the problems was the "somewhat rosy assumptions" that he thought could be dangerous. Once such assumption is that conflicts might last only six months, would have no casualties, and that in order to be involved in those operations, the Army would disengage from anything else it was doing.
"My problem with that is we just got done fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ... we never disengaged from Korea ... we didn't disengage from the Sinai ... we didn't disengage from Kosovo," Odierno said. "So why is there a belief that we will disengage in the future..?"
When asked about investment in cutting-edge protection for Soldiers, Odierno said Soldier systems were the "Number-one priority ... getting the best equipment possible for them to be able to conduct the operation you want them to do."
When the Defense Department went into a hiring freeze and initiated furloughs, Odierno said the Army began losing some its best civilian employees because they were uncertain about their futures.
"We will look at programs that allow us to keep the best, because we need our scientists; we need our engineers; we need our Ph.D.s to help us come up with new ideas and technologies for us to take care of our young men and women in uniform," Odierno said.
When queried on the state of cyber and intelligence-gathering, Odierno and the other service chiefs said there would be an increase in cyber investment.
"Even though we are decreasing our budget, we (Army) are going to increase the cyber force by at least 1,800 people," said Odierno. "In terms of intelligence ... we provide not only intelligence for the Army, but intelligence for the broader strategic and operational force, which is key to combatant commanders."
Concern was expressed by committee members on the effects of sequestration on military exercises with allies -- especially in regions of great instability -- and what message it could send to allies as well as foes.
"I just returned from the Pacific Army commanders' conference, and the whole point of the conference was about multilateral engagements, multilateral exercises, sharing of information, and the inter-operability piece. It's all very important to them, and so to me it's key," Odierno said.
"In the future, we're going to operate in a joint inter-agency multinational environment ... we know that and we have to do the best we can," he said. "My only last point would be, our partners are also significantly reducing their investments and their [militaries], so we have to be very careful about our assumptions about what we think they will do for us ... it's a combination of all of those things we have to consider as we move forward."