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Dyson to AUSA: Sequestration may reduce Army budget by $6 billion

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

A senior Army finance officer provided a glimpse into the service’s fiscal year 2016 budget request of $126.5 billion and what could happen should sequestration kick in, reducing that amount by about $6 billion.

Lt. Gen. Karen E. Dyson, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army, financial management and comptroller, spoke to members of the Association of the U.S. Army at its Institution of Land Warfare breakfast meeting held in early February.

She said that for soldiers to be equipped and prepared to move out on "very unusual missions," as well as "full-spectrum, decisive-action missions, the Army needs to have predictability and continuity in funding to build readiness."

The FY16 budget was supposed to correspond with the downsizing of the force that was supposed to correspond with less demand for Army forces, Dyson said.

Instead "three big things" came up, which were totally unplanned a year ago – the aggression in Ukraine, response to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and the Ebola crisis in Africa, she said.

Dyson said the concern leadership has, as the Army looks to the future, is uncertain funding levels will impact the Army’s ability to be able to meet full-spectrum readiness, which is needed across the force to provide for unplanned missions.

"Now as I look at FY16, some of the things that are happening across our Title 10 responsibilities are that our Army is continuing to shrink," she said.

Adding, "We’ll be at 490,000 soldiers in the active force; 335,000 in the National Guard and 202,000 in the Army Reserve at the end of this year and we’ll continue to shrink in FY16 by another 15,000 from the active component, 8,000 from the National Guard and another 4,000 from the Army Reserve."

Dyson said the Army was continuously reorganizing its brigade combat teams as well as shrinking the number, and that modernization strategy is one that’s incremental and builds on the equipment the Army already has, "because we just can’t afford to do it right now."

Equipment sustainment continues to be reliant on both "base" funding and Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, funds, she said, but OCO dollars have been steadily declining over the last four years, shrinking to about 60 percent.

"The industrial base that performs a lot of sustainment activities – the depots, arsenals and ammunition plants – are very important to how we sustain capability," she said.

Adding, "The real challenge we have there is the workload is declining because as our Army gets smaller, the workload to those activities gets smaller."

"Training is where we are really focusing today and in FY16," Dyson said.

She noted, "What we are doing in our training is that we are leveraging the ideas that are coming out of the Army’s operating concept that really suggest that our future is very uncertain and very unknown."

She said the way the Army was going after that problem was by looking at how it can build leaders who can look at these complexities in the future and can be prepared to meet those unknown demands.

Dyson said the Army has increased funding for military and civilian educational opportunities.

"And, we are standing firm on our commitment to combat training center exercises because we firmly believe this is the way you build depth of leadership experience," Dyson said.

Adding, "You get the captains, majors and the lieutenant colonels who go through these rotations time and again, and they build that kind of experience they haven’t been able to build because of the focus on the counter-insurgency missions."

Dyson said the overall modernization strategy was focused on the soldier – what the soldier wears, the weight a soldier carries, what the soldier shoots and the communications technology for the soldier.

She said the network continues to be a huge priority, as does cyber-threat defeat.

"In procurement, we’re focusing on our aviation platforms, those aircraft that fit inside the Aviation Restructuring Initiative and then on our ground vehicle strategy," she said.

She added, "Again, we’re just incrementally improving what we already have by working on change proposals that will increase protection and provide the abilities to increase network capabilities, but still on the platforms that we already have.

"We have not lost sight of a future infantry fighting vehicle which we’re investing science and technology funding into refining the concepts we need," she said.

"And, we’ve just awarded the contract for the armored multipurpose vehicle to begin building the prototypes as a replacement for the armored personnel carrier."

She also said, "We learned some lessons from FY13," Dyson said. "One of the lessons we learned is that we have to protect our training, planning and our continuum of training that builds readiness, but this risk of sequestration coming at us, sort of year by year, is very interruptive to the continuum of planning that it takes to build readiness.

"The nation depends on the Army to be ready when it’s called upon for unusual missions that we cannot predict on a day-to-day basis as we’ve seen happen in Europe, in Africa and in Iraq."