By Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Piper, Army News ServiceOctober 7, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 7, 2013) -- Sequestration cost the Army $1.7 billion needed to reset and repair equipment returning from Afghanistan, which equates to about 800 vehicles, 2,000 weapons, 10,000 pieces of communication gear and 32 helicopters.
"All of that got pushed to (fiscal year) 2014, and now here we are in 2014 and not able to do that work again because of where we're at today," Lt. Gen. Raymond. V. Mason, deputy chief of staff, Army G-4, told members of the House Armed Services Committee, subcommittee on readiness , Oct. 2.
One danger to successfully getting equipment used in Afghanistan back to units is the loss of people and time from sequestration. Mason said at Army depots around the country he estimates the Army lost 2,000 employees to sequestration in addition to the 2,000 from layoffs to meet future budget cuts.
Mason said the Army lost a lot of technical skills as a result of the sequestration and layoffs.
At Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas, for instance, the Army lost 36 master engineers that work to get Army helicopters back in the air, Mason said.
"They saw this furlough in 2013 and looked out to 2014 and 2015 and perhaps they predicted where we are at today," Mason said. "I'm very concerned about the workforce and our industrial base."
The general also told lawmakers that would-be depot employees might decide against working for the Army after evaluating the lack of predictability and balance.
"That is dramatically impacting our workforce and our ability to get this equipment back in the hands of our Soldiers for ... the next mission for this nation," he added.
Overseas contingency operations, known as OCO, money is currently used to fund depots for repairs and to fund procurement of new equipment to replace battlefield losses.
To reset the necessary equipment, OCO funding must continue for three years after the last piece of equipment comes home from Afghanistan, Mason said.
Without that money there are three areas that Mason sees being impacted: current readiness, modernization and people.
Mason calls modernization an "insurance police for the future" that allows the nation to be technically superior to potential enemies. "If we don't receive OCO, we will begin to eat modernization even more than it is now."
The Army plans to lower the number of Soldiers in the active Army to 490,000 by 2015, and that could be potentially accelerated, but it takes time to get savings with people, he said.
"You've got to treat them right and have them come out of the Army appropriately, not give them pink slips then give them 90 days to get out," Mason said.
Mason sees this as a trifecta of bad situations, and said if the Army does not receive continued OCO funding, it would have to find the money within the Army's base budget.
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