WASHINGTON (March 15, 2016) -- The biggest challenge to the military's readiness is sequestration, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Daniel B. Allyn told lawmakers, March 15.

Sequestration is a provision of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that imposes across-the-board spending cuts if Congress and the White House cannot agree on more targeted cuts aimed at reducing the budget deficit.

The uncertain and restrictive budget environment is forcing the Army to make tough choices, Allyn told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Allyn and his counterparts from the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps spoke at a hearing on the current state of readiness of U.S. forces.

"We must have … predictable and sustained funding to deliver the readiness that our combatant commanders require to meet the missions that continue to emerge," Allyn said.

The Army is accepting considerable risk by reducing its end strength while deferring modernization programs and infrastructure investments, he said.

"For the United States Army, our No. 1 readiness risk is sequestration," he said. The other service leaders echoed that sentiment about their respective branches.

RIPPLE EFFECT OF SEQUESTRATION

Vice chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard said the Navy can maintain a ready fleet through a stable budget and being able to procure and maintain ships with certainty.

Howard said she was in the fleet during a round of sequestration. Deployments were canceled and maintenance periods were shifted.

"The ripple effect of that goes through the years," the admiral said. "You not only lose the maintenance time, but you lose qualification time for people, and that experience set can never be bought back."

Maintaining Marines forward-deployed around the world requires carefully allocating limited funds and working around budget limitations, said Marine Gen. John M. Paxton Jr. said.

Sequestration was also felt throughout the Air Force, the service's vice chief of staff, Gen. David L. Goldfein, said.

"We also broke faith with our airmen, especially our civilian airmen," he said. "When they were furloughed, we lost a number of them who decided that if the company was not invested in them, they were not going to stick with the company."

The threat of sequestration must be removed, Goldfein said.