WASHINGTON — The Army projects a decrease in 10,000 to 14,000 recruits across the services this fiscal year as military entrance processing stations shut down one day per week.
Beginning next month, civilian military entrance processing stations, or MEPS, employees will be furloughed, said the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg. He explained that the Army is the executive agent for MEPS, which processes entry-level personnel for all the armed forces.
Bromberg and the other service chiefs testified Wednesday at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the impact of the continuing resolution and sequestration and how it will affect military personnel, their Families and the operations and maintenance budget.
Budget shortfalls will also result in fewer Army recruiters, he said, thereby “limiting our ability to penetrate the market.”
The officer corps will also take a hit, Bromberg said, as scholarships and training are reduced at ROTCs at universities across the country and at the U.S. Military Academy.
Another adverse impact on recruiting will be fewer dollars for advertising and marketing campaigns used to attract new Soldiers, he said.
Recruiting and retention will likely be affected “for years to come due to loss of confidence in the stability of the Army” as money for training and professional military education for officers and noncommissioned officers becomes scarce, he added.
“Loss of training is not recoverable to untrained Soldiers and units,” he said, meaning that combat readiness will be reduced well past this fiscal year even if a deal is struck later in the year.
Family programs hit
Family programs provide a comprehensive network of resources to help Soldiers and their Families to successfully navigate their way through Army life and deployments, Bromberg said.
The Army will try to keep those programs that deliver the most benefits, but many important programs will, nonetheless, still be cut, he said.
Programs which could be impacted include child abuse prevention, Family advocacy, programs for children with special needs, resiliency training that assists Soldiers and Families in building stronger relationships and post recreation programs.
Which programs will stay and which will cease will be determined by a comprehensive analysis, he said.
“We know there are some complementary programs and some that are redundant,” he said, providing an example. “We know Strong Bonds, which works on building Family relationships during deployments and other stressors is a very, very popular and important program and that it has reduced domestic violence and divorce rates, but we haven’t done the hard analysis on it yet.”
Tuition assistance ends
More than 200,000 Soldiers across the active and reserve components use tuition assistance, Bromberg told lawmakers.
It’s such a popular program, he continued, that when the Army gave 72-hours notice that the program would end, “we burned through $500,000 an hour” with last-minute TA requests “so we did overspend” and will have to find money internally to cover that.
Soldiers still have other options, like the GI Bill and some states still have TA for their National Guard, he said, adding that it’s still not a good substitute for the $383 million program.
TA might not be completely terminated in the future, he said. “We’ll go back and relook at the amount and how to prioritize it,” he said. “Maybe we’ll [adjust it] with $115 million in savings and turn some of it back on.”
Bromberg concluded, warning lawmakers that “the magnitude of fiscal uncertainty will have grave consequences on our Soldiers, civilians and Families if nothing is done to mitigate the effects of operations under the continuing resolution shortfalls, overseas contingency operations shortfalls and sequestration. The Army will be forced to make dramatic cuts to military personnel and Family programs.