WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 25, 2014) -- "This is the time for protection and predictability, not politics," Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh told lawmakers here, today.
"We must have predictable, long-term funding," he continued. "If sequestration, as is the law, returns in [fiscal year 20]16, our gains will be eroded and another round of indiscriminate cuts will gut our force to the point where we're unable to meet the president's 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance."
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, who joined McHugh during the House Armed Services Committee hearing, added urgency for the case of passing the proposed fiscal year 2015 budget and ending sequestration once and for all.
"As we consider the future roles and missions of the Army, it's imperative we consider the world as it exists, not as one we wish it to be," he said. "The recent headlines alone, the Russian's annexation of Crimea, the intractable Syrian civil war, missile launches by North Korea, just to name a few, remind us of the complexity and uncertainty inherent in the international security environment."
If sequestration continues, the Army will be required to slash end strength much lower than 450,000 reflected in the fiscal year 2015 budget, Odierno cautioned. At a lower level, the Army would not be able to execute the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, he said. He added that even executing "one prolonged, multi-phased major contingency operation" would be in doubt.
The budgeted 450,000 Soldiers in fiscal year 2015 already represents "significant risk," but the Army could likely meet the Defense Strategic Guidance at that level, he said, based on staff assumptions that he termed "optimistic."
Assumptions are things like forecasted length of warfare, contributions of allies and casualties, he explained.
But a 420,000 level would make it "very difficult," he said, "because as we reduce capacity, we lose flexibility. Even executing one prolonged operation would be exceedingly difficult."
The secretary and chief acknowledged hearing a lot of angst in response to proposed cuts to the reserve component.
But Odierno said he and the secretary directed that cuts should come disproportionately from the active force before reducing the Guard and Reserve.
As a result, the active component end strength will be 46 percent of the total force, while the Guard and Reserve will be 54 percent, he said.
"The Army will be the only service in which the Reserve Component outnumbers the active component," Odierno said.
Of particular concern to the Guard was the loss of Apache attack helicopters to the active component, although those loses would be offset by Black Hawk helicopters the Army thinks could be better employed during state emergencies.
Odierno pointed out that the active component is also taking a much larger total cut in aircraft: Of the 798 aircraft reduced from the total force, 687 will come out of the active component or 86 percent, and 111 aircraft or 14 percent, will come from the National Guard.
The secretary and the chief laid out the rationale for another round of Base Realignment and Closure actions, pointing out that infrastructure must keep pace with declining manpower levels.
When asked how much excess infrastructure exists, McHugh estimated it to be 15 to 20 percent. He added that a new round of BRAC would yield significantly more savings than the 2005 round.
One lawmaker said she was deeply concerned with the morale of the force, particularly regarding suicides, mental illnesses, drastic manpower cuts and sexual misconduct -- especially by those in positions of authority.
The Army is continuing to make good progress on combating sexual assault and harassment, particularly on reporting and investigating these incidents, Odierno pointed out.
"It remains our top priority. Our prosecution and conviction rates continue to increase, but we realize more needs to be done," he said. "We take it very, very seriously."
He outlined a number of steps the Army has recently taken in addressing this, including initiating 360-degree assessments on all officers, especially commanders, and implementing a new officer evaluation report which strengthens accountability.
"The American people expect the Army to promote ethical leadership," he said.
The solutions to ethical issues and to those impacting health of the force are myriad and include education, discussions, accountability, enforcing standards and developing an environment that allows Soldiers to grow, Odierno said.
McHugh said the Army has some 62 programs folded inside its Ready and Resilient Campaign. He added that funding of R2C has increased even as many other programs decline in funding.
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