WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 31, 2014) – The involuntary separation of Soldiers from the force may be necessary as the Army draws down in strength over the next few years, the service’s vice chief of staff told members of Congress.
Gen. John F. Campbell testified March 26, to the Senate Armed Services Committee, subcommittee on readiness and management support, about the implications of constrained budgets.
So far, the Army has been able to draw down its end strength primarily through attrition, Campbell said, as the force has gone from about 570,000 Soldiers on active duty to about 520,000 today.
He said bringing the force down to 490,000 will probably require about 5,000 involuntary separations over the next three years. Bringing the end strength down to 450,000 Soldiers by 2019 will be even tougher, he said.
“It’s probably going to be in the neighborhood of 35,000 involuntary separations,” he told lawmakers, adding that if full sequestration kicks in and the Army is required to drop to 420,000 Soldiers, the level of Soldiers cut involuntarily will be even higher.
Involuntary separations involve “a really big category” of personnel actions, Campbell said. He explained that it includes two-time non-selects for officer promotions. It includes retention control points for enlisted Soldiers who remain at the same rank too long. And it includes boards under the Qualitative Service Program for senior NCOs, he said.
Officer Separation Boards and Selective Early Retirement Boards, known as SERBs, are taking place for many officers, Campbell reported in his written statement to the subcommittee. The boards started with lieutenant colonels and colonels. Now, similar boards will begin looking at senior captains and majors in year groups that were assessed to support a larger force during the height of the two recent conflicts.
Some company commanders coming back from Afghanistan may be involuntarily cut from the force, Campbell said, telling members of Congress that kind of personnel action is “tough” and results in a valuable loss of experience.
Only allowing the best Soldiers to re-enlist will also be a big part of the drawdown, Campbell said at the hearing. “It’s us being very tough on re-enlistment.”
If Soldiers coming off active duty cannot find jobs immediately, the Army must fund unemployment pay for them, Campbell said. He added that the Army paid about $500 million in unemployment compensation last year.
“But we have this thing called ‘Soldier for Life,'” Campbell said, referring to a transition assistance program to help Soldiers reintegrate, build resumes and prepare them for employment in the private sector. Soldiers now begin the program one year before leaving the service.
The tight budget has also forced a return to “tiered readiness,” Campbell said. Under tiered readiness, referred to as Army Force Generation, or ARFORGEN, units not scheduled to deploy in the immediate future are not fully resourced, and are instead maintained at lower levels of readiness.
“Progressive readiness is really what we’ve had the last 12 years with ARFORGEN — Army Force Generation — where there’s predictability … and you have time to build up,” Campbell said.
The Army has used tiered readiness in the past, before it developed the more recent ARFORGEN model. Campbell said that fiscal realities require the force to use it again as a “bridging strategy” to get past constrained budgets.
“Tiered readiness really focuses on certain units and that’s where the money has to go,” Campbell said. He explained that units in Korea would be fully resourced, as would those preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. The Global Response Force would also be fully resourced.
For everyone else, he said, “you have what you have and your training readiness will continue to go lower and lower and lower.”
He said under tiered readiness, only 20 percent of the operational force will be able conduct collective training at a level necessary “to meet our strategic requirements.” That means 80 percent of the force will remain at lower readiness levels, he reported in his written statement to the subcommittee.
“Unless National Guard and Reserve forces are preparing for deployment, they will largely be funded for readiness at the individual, crew and squad level,” Campbell’s statement said.
However, a total of 19 brigade combat teams are scheduled to rotate through combat training centers, known as CTCs, this year to conduct decisive action and unified land operations training. Some of the brigades have not done these types of large-scale force-on-force maneuvers at the National Training Center or other CTCs in 10 years, he said.
“The return to direct action (training) in 2013 revealed that many tank platoon sergeants had never performed as a member of a tank crew,” Campbell stated. “Some company commanders had never maneuvered their units as a part of a combined-arms team, and field-grade officers often had no experience in combined-arms maneuvers.”