17 February 2016 Legislative News Update
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LEGISLATION WOULD END ARMY, MARINE CORPS DOWNSIZING
An AUSA salute goes to Reps. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., and Mike Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces subcommittee, for introducing a bill that would limit reductions in the Army and Marine Corps until 2017, a pause that would allow the next president to assess land force capabilities and needs before deciding troop levels.
The bill, Protecting Our Security Through Utilizing Right-Sized End-Strength Act, or the POSTURE Act (H.R. 4534), would also block cuts in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve. It sets 350,000 as the minimum strength for the Army Guard instead of the 342,000 target by the end of the fiscal year. The Army Reserve end-strength would be 205,000 instead of the 198,000 target.
By Oct. 1, 2016, the Regular Army is expected to fall to 475,000 soldiers on a downslope that would leave the Army with just 450,000 soldiers on active duty by Oct. 1, 2018.
"To put it into perspective, when you look at land forces, the day before the 11th of September, 2001, you were looking at essentially for the active component, 480,000, almost 481,000," Gibson said, referring to the Army's levels.
"But these plans, the administration right now plans to take it all the way down to 450,000 in the active component and 335,000 in the National Guard, and the same with the Army Reserve, I think they're taking it down too low," Gibson said.
Turner added, "It is clear from all the testimony we've received and from the information we've received from the Army that this could break the Army. This could significantly hamper the next president of the United States in their opportunities and capabilities for our military to protect the country," he said.
Gibson said assumptions have changed since the administration first drafted its plans to reduce force levels in 2013. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has emerged as a force, North Korea is saber-rattling and Russia has intervened in Ukraine.
The bill is not a sure thing. To have any impact on the Oct. 1 strength levels, the measure likely would have to pass Congress and be signed into law separate from the annual defense budget, which often doesn’t pass Congress until November or December. A second problem is that the measure does not provide the Army any money to cover the unbudgeted cost of having additional soldiers. A directive to keep more soldiers that doesn’t include money could put the Army in a difficult position of having to divert money from efforts to improve readiness to cover personnel costs.
Turner said he is working with the House Budget Committee to find funds for the additional soldiers.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee echoed Gibson and Turner’s concern. “On the present course, we are running the risk that in a crisis, we will have too few soldiers who will enter a fight, without proper training or equipment.
“As the demands on our Army continue to increase, our support for our soldiers has not kept pace. In short, our Army is confronting growing threats and increasing operational demands with shrinking and less ready forces and aging equipment.”
“These budget-driven force reductions were decided before the rise of ISIL or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” McCain said. And, the Army “is still at war. At this moment, 187,000 soldiers are deployed in 140 locations around the globe. They’re fighting terrorists and training our partners in Afghanistan and supporting the fight against ISIL, all while defending South Korea and reassuring our allies in Eastern Europe.”