Defense

April 17, 2013

Budget challenges impacting Army readiness

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David Vergun
Army News Service

Army leaders say if sequestration, continuing resolutions and furloughs continue, equipment reset in Army depots, such as at Anniston Army Depot, Ala., could be delayed. That means that equipment will be delayed in its return to units that need it for training.

Army leaders told Congress that the readiness Americans have come to expect from the Army is at risk if sequestration and continuing resolutions are allowed to go on.

Lt. Gen. James L. Huggins Jr., deputy chief of staff for Operations, U.S. Army, and three other Army generals testified to that at a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Readiness Subcommittee, April 16, regarding the Army’s readiness posture.

Huggins told lawmakers bigger impacts in fiscal year 2014 will be felt if the budget is not addressed. Cost deferments in training and modernization this fiscal year will be pushed back to the next, “compounding risk” and creating a “magnitude of challenges ahead.”

Reduced spending for personnel, training and modernization will also limit the Army’s ability to adhere to the commander in chief’s Defense Strategic Guidance, which was designed to sustain U.S. global leadership, he said.

Specifically, Huggins said budget cuts have resulted in the curtailment of around 80 percent of training for non-deploying/deployed units.

Asked what type of training those non-deployed Soldiers are getting, Huggins responded that they are limited to training at the squad level. They are not able to train to higher levels within larger-scale exercises at the national training centers.

Some soldiers are getting the training they need, however. Those Soldiers include those preparing to go to Afghanistan, those in Korea or preparing to go to Korea, and those who are part of the Army’s Global Response Force. All of those, he said, need to be at higher readiness levels.

The general concluded that strategy must drive the way ahead and force structure should then follow, the way ahead should not be resource-driven.

Degraded logistics

Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, deputy chief of staff, Army G-4, said that as the drawdown continues, he’s especially concerned about getting equipment out of Afghanistan and getting it reset so it can be used again.

The equipment drawdown in Afghanistan “is orders of magnitude harder than in Iraq,” he said.

The tenuous overland route through Pakistan and equipment beat up by extremes in temperature and terrain make the process “slow and fragile” he said, adding that a lot of it is being airlifted out, an expensive way to conduct retrograde.

Once the equipment gets back to the United States, it’s shipped to depots and arsenals across the country for reset. But the civilian workers there who make up the Army’s “organic industrial base” are preparing to be furloughed soon, he said. That reduction in manpower will delay reset of equipment, which means it will take longer to return equipment to the units that need it for training.

As well, contracts are being cut, including second, third and fourth-tier suppliers, many of them small businesses, he said. This is creating gaps in the supply chain and the industrial base.

One congressman, concerned the cuts would affect the depot in his home state, asked if those workers would be furloughed as well if the decision is made.

Mason replied in the affirmative.

Reserve Components

Brig. Gen. Walter E. Fountain, acting deputy director, Army National Guard, and Maj. Gen. Luis R. Visot, deputy commander G-3, Army Reserve, also testified. They said the reserve components would feel the impacts of the budget later than the active component.

Both said now is not the time to squander the investments made over the last dozen years to transform the component from a strategic reserve to an operational force.

Fountain added that “readiness is perishable, It’s much less expensive to stay ready than to get ready.”




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