WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 1, 2014, 2014) – The fiscal year 2015 Army budget submitted to Congress “is lean, stark but critical to meeting the needs of our nation and our Soldiers,” said Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh.
The budget reflects an adjustment of the force mix in favor of the reserve component, McHugh told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee during a Defense subcommittee hearing on the Army budget, April 30.
That budget and the force restructure do not need to be examined by a commission, added Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.
Also testifying were: Gen. Frank Grass, chief, National Guard Bureau; Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, chief, Army Reserve; and Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons, acting director, Army National Guard.
McHugh then focused on the aviation cuts, explaining that the “vast majority” are coming from the active component. The Guard’s fleet will decline by eight percent, while the active declines by about 23 percent.
“We know this is controversial, but we have no choice. The money is gone,” he said.
“If our restructure proposals are delayed or rejected, whether through a commission or other actions, we will be forced to take other immediate cuts to the active forces and to those programs that have already been heavily impacted, further eroding readiness and impacting manning – both civilian and military at every post, camp and station within the U.S.,” he continued.
As to studying the restructure proposal by commission, one senator said he’d introduce legislation to do just that, adding that he expects it to have a good chance of passing. He reasoned that the restructure should be looked at through the eyes of an outside, independent commission with a long-term view in mind.
Odierno warned that a commission’s study and deliberations might take as much as two years, resulting in adding billions to the funding costs and putting the Army’s manning, readiness and modernization further out of whack.
The Army had careful deliberations on how it went about preparing its budget and restructure plans, Odierno said, explaining that leaders looked at the issues “from all perspectives” in a process that was “transparent, open and highly collaborative with representation from all components and analysis from experts at every level.”
The senator said he still wasn’t convinced and would push ahead with his legislation anyway.
RUSSIANS AND TORNADOES
Just this week, U.S. Soldiers deployed to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania “to conduct joint training and to reassure our Eastern European allies against Russian aggression,” Odierno told lawmakers, making the point that taxpayers are getting a bang for their buck.
He added that Soldiers are training Afghan security forces, standing guard at the DMZ in Korea, conducing operations in Kosovo, Jordan and Kuwait, building partner capacity in Africa and pivoting to the Pacific.
If sequestration continues with manning dropping below the 440,000 to 450,000 active-component end strength, the Army would not be able to execute a prolonged, multi-phase major contingency operation, Odierno warned, adding that below those red-line levels, the Army would be hard-pressed to even meet its current commitments and training requirements.
Adding their input to lawmakers, the reserve-component leaders said their Soldiers not only contribute greatly to operations worldwide, including keeping the Russians at bay, they also respond to domestic disasters such as the spate of deadly tornadoes tearing through the Southeast, even as they were speaking.
Grass reminded lawmakers that “the current generation of Guardsmen expect to be deployed at home and abroad” and that “when our enemies look at America’s military, they see the best fighting force in history. They do not see different components.”
He added that the Guard is doing its part to ensure a relatively tranquil world through some 70 state partnerships.
Lyons called the Guard “a strategic reserve to the operational force” since 9/11.
Talley pointed out that the Army Reserve provides “about 20 percent of the total Army force structure, but only about 5.8 percent of the budget. That’s a great return on investment, especially given the positive economic impact we make everywhere we are.”
It’s not only the Guard that responds to natural disasters, the Reserve does as well, he said, pointing to rapid response when Hurricane Sandy tore through the Eastern Seaboard.
The Reserve is the backbone of the operating force, he continued, providing medical and engineering expertise as well as other technical capabilities often not resident on the active side.
As he usually does at budget hearings, McHugh pointed to easy savings that could be had through another round of base realignment and closure, known as BRAC.
“We can’t afford to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of unused or unnecessary facilities,” he said.
While McHugh sees another BRAC round as a no-brainer, he acknowledged that it would take courage for lawmakers to authorize one, admitting that when he was a lawmaker, an installation closed in his own district and it was very difficult for him.
While many modernization and readiness programs have seen decreased funding, McHugh told the subcommittee that funding for ready and resilient programs have actually gone up about 46 percent.
Such programs include Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness, transition assistance and suicide and sexual assault prevention — programs he and lawmakers care deeply about, he said.
He added that the Army is determined to meet the needs of its Soldiers, civilians and family members and that ready and resilient programs represent “a sacred covenant to support them and we will not break it.”
McHugh also reminded lawmakers that Army civilians “bore a great burden” over the last few years with pay freezes and furloughs, and he said he “fears we have yet to see the true impacts on morale and retention.”