Sequestration. That one word encompasses a multitude of horrors soon to be visited upon our national defense forces and in particular our Army. If Congress allows the sequestration process to continue in fiscal year 2016 and beyond, the following will likely occur: Active Army endstrength goes to 420,000, Army National Guard endstrength goes to 315,000, Army Reserve endstrength goes to 185,000 and Department of Defense civilian endstrength reduces by 20,000.
Those are huge cuts and there are security risks associated with each one. For example, The Army cannot function without its DoD civilians, which appear to be disproportionately targeted by potential cuts compared to other federal agencies. Defense civilians work alongside Soldiers during peacetime, help prepare them for conflict, and support them in their role as warfighters. They have endured three years of frozen pay and the specter of furloughs, yet they continue to work side by side with their uniformed counterparts. When you cut their strength, Soldiers must take up the slack, further diminishing readiness.
The Army is the nation’s foundational force. Beyond its core mission to conduct prompt and sustained combat on land, the Army contributes more than 40 percent of the Joint Force’s foundational activities, including: signal, engineer, missile defense and theater medical, logistical and intelligence support. Further, 70 percent of combatant command-developed requirements in the past decade went to the Army for sourcing. The Army also is the executive agent for all large and small caliber ammunition for all the services. The potential personnel cuts to the Army would bring its capabilities to unacceptably low levels.
However, before those devastating cuts occur, the fiscal year 2015 appropriation has to be enacted. Based on where we are in that process, it looks like there will be no 2015 defense appropriation legislation on September 30 when the current fiscal year ends, and the Department of Defense again will be funded with a continuing resolution for at least three months.
Continuing resolutions create enormous risk to our national security because of the fiscal uncertainty they bring. Spending is frozen at the previous year’s levels – combat training center rotations are cancelled, maintenance of equipment is delayed, civilian hiring is frozen and new contracts cannot be issued. The bottom line is that training and readiness suffer and fiscal uncertainty reigns. In our dangerous world, defense spending uncertainty is a recipe for disaster. As I have said many times before, regular order in the defense appropriations process must be restored.
The Army Chief of Staff must balance endstrength, modernization and readiness. He does not want to send poorly trained and underequipped American Soldiers into harm’s way. So between the “rock” of sequestration and the “hard place” of a continuing resolution lies a defense force in peril. Join me in this fight and contact Congress. Urge them to end sequestration permanently. Go to http://capwiz.com/ausa/home/ and submit AUSA’s prepared letter to Congress titled “End Sequestration Permanently.”