Army budget chief: Training – ‘You can never buy it back’
You have to commit to training up front. You can never buy it back," said Lt. Gen. Joseph E. Martz, a top architect for the Army budget.
Martz, military deputy for the budget, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management & Comptroller), cited retired Army Maj. Gen. William Stofft's book, "America’s First Battles: 1776-1965," which illustrates the correlation of good training to success on the battlefield.
"No one has been able to add a chapter to that book," he said, as he addressed training and other budget challenges at the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare breakfast March 20 in Northern Virginia.
Soon after that book was published in 1976, Martz noted the Army stood up the national training centers and other combat training centers – during the time of the post-Vietnam drawdown.
Unfortunately, 2013 was a bad year, he said. That’s when sequester took effect and large-unit training exercises were canceled.
When the sequestration execute order was issued March 1, 2013, too much was taken out of the overseas contingency operation, or OCO, budget, he said.
The OCO budget needed funding for things like aviation, which remained in high demand in Afghanistan despite troop and equipment reductions.
And, equipment had to be reset as well as it came back.
The result was, "We had to make [the money shortfall] up ourselves. That drove canceling things like training," he said.
Not to make any excuses, but the Army needed the time to do the analysis to get to a well-crafted budget, he said.
"If you can get to the analytics, you have really good people who can help you get the best it can be, but if you don’t have enough time," that can be difficult, he said, discussing the budget after-action review, done at the end of Fiscal Year 2013.
"Would we want to do that again?" he questioned rhetorically.
Absolutely not. The secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff have made it clear that readiness is a priority.
In the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, the training picture looks a lot different than in 2013, thanks in part to the sequester reprieve known as the 2013 Bipartisan Budget Act.
For Fiscal Year 2015, the Army is programming 19 combat training center rotations as well as seven division- and three corps-level mission command exercises, he said, noting that all of these will focus on decisive-action engagements.
Martz then explained how the budget process works, pointing out that his programmers already started working on the Fiscal Year 2016 budget last October, even as the Fiscal Year 2015 budget was being finalized.
The budget charts he showed at the AUSA breakfast were just a few PowerPoint slides long, but Martz noted that the details in the budget that most people don’t ever see add up to an 8,000- or 10,000-page document.
That’s how much meticulous planning and detail goes into them.
While eating an elephant that size seems daunting, he said it can be done one bite at a time. It all comes down to thinking in terms of what needs to be done and reconciling the math with the priorities, he explained.
In this case, the priorities – as dictated by the Army secretary and chief of staff – are readiness, balanced with manpower and modernization, Martz said.
That balance is needed to carry out the Army's strategy: "Prevent, Shape and Win."
Readiness includes training exercises and it also includes professional education and development, along with programs from the Ready and Resilient Campaign.
Modernization priorities include missile and cyber defense, aviation, science, technology and research.
Finding the right industries and universities that are on the cutting edge of technology and applying that to future Army equipment is important and even "fascinating," but you have to find the balance point with other modernization priorities, he said.
Equipment-wise, the vehicles and aircraft coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq "have helped us keep our fleet age levels down.
So we have one of the best situations we’ve ever had coming out of conflict," Martz said.
Manpower is the most problematic of the three items that need to be balanced because it contains compensation costs that "compound" over time, although compensation is a necessary component of any organization, he added.
Martz said he’s watching closely what Congress might do in the area of personnel costs.
"Any adjustments they make can have big impacts on readiness and modernization," he said.
Compensation is one of those areas that are set by law.
"We’re reducing optional overhead, but there’s fixed overhead that just can’t be reduced," he said.
Adding, optional overhead would be military construction, which is currently "at an all-time low."
Of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget crafting, Martz said the secretary and chief were "enormously involved in the process," and that "we think what we turned in was a good product."
Power of the purse
When he said "turned in," Martz was referring to the handing over of the budget to Congress, which occurred earlier this month.
"We’re staying tight with our teammates on the Hill" regarding the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which Congress is or will soon be scrutinizing.
Lawmakers are pretty savvy, he observed.
"They ask us questions, like: ‘What do you mean by this?’ and ‘Why did this change from last year?’" he said, referring to line items in the budget.
Adding, "They have good insights and we have to be able to respond."
People often fuss and fume about Congress, he said, but that's the way it’s done.
He noted that Congress’s power of the purse started way back when George Washington stood up and used his force of character to make civilian control of the military a reality.
"Whatever we get [from Congress], we get, and we have to do the best with it to ensure no one goes untrained. That’s it," he said.
Martz recalled the words of retired Gen. Frederick Franks, during the last drawdown in the 1990s: "You can’t roll up your sleeves and wring your hands at the same time."
Martz added that Franks said that to get people to stop whining.
Martz put up a PowerPoint chart showing the DoD budgets since 1948.
A line graph depicted the total dollar amounts shrinking after every drawdown: post-Korea, post-Vietnam, post-Gulf War and today.
What was notable about the graph was that the total dollar amount during the current drawdown isn’t yet anywhere near the low levels of the other ones.
"People are saying ‘holy smokes, this is terrible,’" he said of the current budget crunch.
"I’m not saying what’s going to happen," he added, but people should maybe not use hard adjectives like that too quickly now because they might need them for later.