It is important for the members of Congress to know that they are risking our national security by failing to address in a timely manner, the fiscal needs of our defense forces. I listened intently to the Army’s Chief of Staff, GEN Ray Odierno, the speaker at AUSA’s most recent Institute of Land Warfare breakfast. His message was clear – our national security is at risk because of the fiscal uncertainty that we face today. The numbers are sobering - a $6 billion shortfall for FY 13 in Army operation and maintenance accounts because Congress has failed to pass appropriations legislation and the Army must spend at the FY 12 budget levels. If sequestration triggers on March 1, another $6 billion shortfall will occur. Combined with other underfunding, the total shortfall for FY 13 could be $17 billion – in wartime!
General Odierno outlined the steps the Army is taking to remain effective while dealing with the lack of funding – cancelling combat training center rotations, delaying depot work and cancelation of maintenance for vehicles that are not bound immediately for the current fight, freezing civilian hiring, potential furloughing of existing employees and laying off temporary workers. The bottom line is that training and therefore readiness will suffer. He described the endstrength reductions to 490,000 that will occur and said that if sequestration triggers, the numbers could dip further.
General Odierno told the audience, which included many congressional staffers, that what the Army needs most is some budget predictability through several years so that endstrength, modernization and readiness can be carefully balanced and a hollow force avoided.
Here at AUSA through a series of letters, we have been urging Congress to solve the sequestration puzzle now and have highlighted the significant dangers posed by sequestration and the repeated use of continuing resolutions to fund our Department of Defense. You can click here to read our letters on the subject , and you can add your voice to ours by clicking here, then put your zip code in the box by Elected Officials and click on the letter titled “Stop Sequestration Now”.
Unfortunately the military-related headlines in major newspapers today focus on side issues that serve only to take the eyes of the American people off of the key issue – the fiscal process must be put back in order so that our defense forces can maintain readiness and their ability to defend this nation. Add your voice to ours and urge Congress to ACT NOW – our national security hangs in the balance.