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American Forces Press Service

Army Leaders Urge Congressional Relief From Sequester

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2015 – The Army's senior leaders today urged Congress to support President Barack Obama's $126.5 billion budget request to preserve modest gains from the past year.

Army Secretary John M. McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno appeared before the House Committee on Appropriations subcommittee on defense to urge Congress to prevent the return of funding caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, also known as sequestration.

'Truly Alarming' Demand

McHugh told the congressional panel the demand for the Army to tackle contingencies around the world has grown at a "truly alarming rate."

"Far from being foreseeable," he said, "our requirements have been more unexpected, our enemies more unpredictable, and our ability to handle multiple, simultaneous operations … has become more uncertain."

Despite such volatility, McHugh said, and amid instability around the world, "America's Army is faced, yet again, with an enemy here at home -- the return of sequestration."

'Dark, Dangerous' Future

With the prospect of sequester-imposed spending caps resulting in unprepared units, unmaintained equipment and untrained soldiers, the secretary said, the Army faces a "dark and very dangerous future" unless Congress makes every effort to act now to end these "ill-conceived and inflexible budget cuts."

McHugh added, "Moreover -- and I want to be clear here -- every installation, every component [and] nearly every program will feel the brunt of these cuts."

Under sequestration, he said, "by 2019, we will reduce our end strength to unconscionable levels, likely losing … another six [brigade combat teams], and potentially, a division headquarters, not to mention the very real impacts to associated enablers, contracts, facilities and civilian personnel."

Budget Request Preserves 'Modest Gains'

The Army will keep faith with its soldiers, but sequestration will "directly impact critical installation and family programs Armywide," McHugh said.

"Simply put, we need the president's budget," he said. "[The] $126.5 billion request … is some $6 billion over the potential sequester level and is specifically designed to preserve our modest gains … over the last year and take care of your soldiers."

Moreover, McHugh said, this request seeks vital reforms to compensation and force structure that will ensure the funding needed to support near-term readiness and help place the Army on a predictable path to balance.

"From modest changes in pay and allowances to our aviation restructuring initiative," he said, "our reforms are both necessary and prudent to sustain the readiness of our forces and move the Army toward eventual balance."

'Stop Talking, Start Acting'

In what he termed a "truly historic" moment, McHugh urged the subcommittee to take action now.

"We need to stop talking and start acting," he said. "We need wisdom, not words. We need results, not rhetoric, and as I said before this subcommittee last year, we need predictability -- not politics."

McHugh added, "As we face extreme instability around the world, we must have certainty here at home. Your soldiers deserve no less. We must have an end to sequestration this year, and we must have this budget."

Army Capabilities Decreasing

Odierno, citing a "diverse and complex" array of threats, also urged the congressional panel to invest rather than divest in the Army's capabilities.

"In my opinion," the general said, "this should not be the time to divest of our military capability and capacity. But, that is in fact what we are doing -- decreasing active component end strength by 80,000, so far, and our National Guard and the Reserves by a combined 18,000."

Odierno said the Army has deactivated 13 active duty brigade combat teams and is eliminating three active component combat aviation brigades.

"We are reducing the total aviation force by 800 aircraft, with almost 700 of those coming out of our active component," he said.

'Dangerous' Balancing Act

The "unrelenting budget impasse" has compelled the Army to degrade readiness to "historically low levels," Odierno said.

"Today, only 33 percent of our brigades are ready, when we believe our sustained readiness rate should be closer to 70 percent," he said.

"Under our current budget, Army readiness will, at best, flat-line over the next three to four years," Odierno said. "The compromises we have made to modernization and readiness, combined with reductions to our force size and capabilities, translates into increased strategic risk."

He added, "We are generating just enough readiness for immediate consumption. We are not able to generate residual readiness to respond to unknown contingencies or to even reinforce ongoing operations."

This is a dangerous balancing act, said Odierno, noting the Army has fewer soldiers and the majority of them are in units that aren't ready.

"They are manning aging equipment at a time when demand for Army forces is much higher than anticipated," he said. "Our soldiers and leaders continue to perform superbly."

The president's budget request recognizes challenges the Army faces, but still represents the "bare minimum" needed to carry out missions the national defense strategy requires, Odierno said.

"It is a tenuous house of cards," he said. "For the president's budget to work, all of our proposed reforms in pay and compensation must be approved. All of our force structure reforms must be supported, to include the Aviation Restructure Initiative."

Decisions Impact the Future

"If BCA caps remain, we can no longer execute the defense strategic guidance," Odierno said. "The decisions we make today and over the next several months will impact our soldiers, our Army, and our nation for the next 10 years."

He added, "The burden of miscalculation and under-investment will directly fall on the shoulders of our men and women of the U.S. Army who have so ably served this nation. We simply cannot allow this to happen."

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