Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel blamed many of the readiness problems the Army and other military services are experiencing on the deep cuts forced by sequestration
Speaking at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting and Exposition earlier this month, Hagel warned that failure to fix sequestration risks a return to an Army that is undertrained, under-equipped, outnumbered, and unprepared.” Because of sequestration, last year the Army had to cancel so many training rotations that we had only two active-duty brigade combat teams who were fully ready and available to execute a major combat mission,” he charged.
Hagel acknowledged that some budget relief has been enacted, but stressed that sequestration is still law. Unless there is an agreement to fix sequestration, Hagel said, “it will return in 2016—stunting the Army’s readiness just as we’ve begun to recover, and requiring even more dramatic reductions in force structure.”
Hagel also pressed for congressional approval of DoD’s proposed program reductions, trade-offs, and compensation reforms to mitigate the stress on readiness levels and modernization plans. If Congress does not act, Hagel warned, DoD “could face a $70 billion cut in our budget over the next five years.” As a result, the military services “would have little choice but to make up the differences through cuts to readiness,” he said.
Hagel urged Congress to be “a partner in responsible, long-term planning and budgeting” and to end sequestration, which he called “an irresponsible deferral of responsibility.”
Army Secretary John McHugh, opening the AUSA meeting, voiced similar concerns. He warned that if sequestration is implemented in 2016 “another round of indiscriminate cuts will gut our force so we’re unable to meet the president’s defense strategic guidance.” He called on Congress to support predictable, long-term funding plans. “This is a time for predictability,” he said
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has echoed Hagel’s and McHugh’s remarks. Odierno called 2016 a “breaking point.” He said if sequestration returned in 2016 it would take the Army budget down $9 billion from the current plan. He emphasized this cut would significantly degrade the force “because I cannot take people out fast enough.”
Odierno called for a “balance” between manpower, modernization and training, which sequestration make difficult to maintain. “This is a lousy way to do business,” he said.