By David VergunMarch 5, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 5, 2013) -- One of the effects of sequestration, which went into effect March 1, could be the reduction of the Army's end strength by 100,000, including some Guard and Reserve, the Army's chief of staff told members of Congress.
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno testified to the House Committee on Appropriations today during an oversight hearing on force structure issues by the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs subcommittee.
The cut of 100,000 Soldiers doesn't include the current drawdown of 89,000 already being conducted over the next three years, Odierno said. Thousands of Army civilians could also lose their jobs, he added.
The cuts to personnel will need to occur, Odierno said, since 48 percent of the Army's entire budget goes to personnel costs.
"If we don't do that we'll be out of balance," he said, adding that some funds are needed to provide equipment and training for Soldiers going "into harm's way."
"We have to stay in balance between end strength, readiness and modernization and if we don't do that we become a hollow force. Frankly, that's going to happen pretty quickly," he said, referring to the Army becoming a "hollow force."
The result of all of these personnel cuts means that the Army would have excess installation infrastructure, requiring the need for future rounds of base realignment and closure, he said. Otherwise, maintaining unused facilities and bases would further strain the budget's personnel, training and modernization dollars.
In addition to the sequester and failure to pass a budget, there are "shortfalls" in the Army's overseas contingency operations budget, or OCO, Odierno reminded lawmakers. The OCO is important because there are still nearly 60,000 Soldiers in Afghanistan and another 21,000 deployed in various places in the Middle East, he said.
The combination of the continuing resolution, shortfall in OCO and the sequester has resulted in a shortfall of at least $18 billion to operations and maintenance accounts, as well as an additional $6 billion across all other programs, Odierno said.
"These cuts will have grave and immediate impacts to Army readiness that will not only last this year, but will last in years beyond," Odierno said.
The budget cuts will impact Army readiness, Odierno said. The Army is canceling its combat training center rotations, which Odierno termed "the culminating event of readiness for brigade combat teams." The total number of BCTs themselves will be cut by nearly 40 percent, he added.
The number of flying hours for training per year for helicopter pilots has been reduced so much, he said that about 750 pilots will go untrained and it will take two to three years to get back to normal even if funding eventually becomes available.
Immediate impacts Odierno cited include: stopping the planned expansion of Arlington National Cemetery, cancellation of 102 construction projects that were slated to be awarded in 35 states, and not executing about 100,000 facility work orders per month. The latter, he said, means "our buildings will fail faster than we can fix them."
The budget cuts will have an impact on one of Odierno's top priorities: family programs.
"The furlough of 251,000 valued civilian employees, reduction in base sustainment funds and elimination of service contracts will strain our ability to protect our Army family programs across all installations. Sequestration will force us to reduce resources for our schools, daycare centers and every one of our family assistance and community service programs," he said, adding that sequestration will impose a $44.7 million cut to the family housing program.
The other service chiefs gave similar testimonies on the impact of sequestration during the hearing. Odierno pointed out that impacts on the other services also impact the Army directly or indirectly as the Army often conducts joint missions and training. Some specific examples he cited were cyber capabilities, language training and shared service schools, all impacted by sequestration.
"Sequestration is not in the best interest of our Soldiers, our civilians and our national security," Odierno concluded. "And, I don't want to see the impact of these cuts rest on the shoulders of our Soldiers and civilians."