Army readiness dilemma: Too little funding, too few soldiers

Army readiness dilemma: Too little funding, too few soldiers

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top Army leaders feel readiness is improving and on track to meet the goal of 66 percent level throughout the force, but at least one military expert at an AUSA panel discussion felt too little funding and too few soldiers are making the service miss that mark.

Gen. Robert Abrams, commander, U.S. Army Forces Command said during a panel discussion that it’s not true the Army doesn’t have clear-cut goals for training.

Abrams was among five panelists discussing “Readiness for Today’s Complex World,” an Institute of Land Warfare Contemporary Military Forum during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington.

“Last year’s evaluation was the Army was rusty in combined arms capability,” Abrams said. “We’re better, but we need improvement,” particularly in the combined arms maneuver environment.

Joining Abrams on the panel were Daniel Feehan, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for readiness; Maj. Gen. Ryan Gonsalves, who commands the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, Colo.; Brig. Gen. Blake Ortner, commander, 29th Infantry Division; and Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow of foreign policy at the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence..

Feehan said that time is a large part of commitment to readiness, along with consistent funding. “Funding and demand are two factors both within and outside of the Army,” he said.

Adding, “Demand has exacerbated readiness, and there is urgent demand on the force,” which is getting pulled in unusual directions.

But O’Hanlon, also a chair at the Brookings Institution, said it’s fairly easy to overdo readiness, specifically when, he feels, the Army is too small.

“Some argue the funding goes too far in modernization,” he said, adding overall the United States’ defense size is too small.

This point highlighted Abram’s note that today’s battlefield contains conventional and non- invention forces, insurgencies, governments both stable and not, plus cyber threats and electronic warfare.

Readiness is a cornerstone issue for the Army, one emphasized repeatedly at gatherings throughout the show’s first day.

During his talk at the Maj. Gen. Robert Moorhead Guard and Reserve Breakfast earlier that morning, Abrams said readiness “is crucial now more than ever” for an Army comprised of about 980,000 service members over the three components.

Placing the emphasis on readiness “is exactly the right focus,” Abrams told the National Guard and Army Reserve audience.

Concentration on individual readiness over that of the component is important, he said, because as a group, soldiers will focus more and better.

Readiness clearly was on the minds of the standing-room-only audience listening to the panel.

A question and answer session following panel opinions lasted nearly an hour, with audience members questioning everything from family preparedness to physical fitness requirements to National Guard deployments to training and operations tempo.