2 October 2014 Legislative News Update
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
- No Easy Tasks
NO EASY TASKS
A massive air assault in the Middle East which is the “beginning of a sustained war” according to Defense officials. Army troops deployed to West Africa to assist in the containment of the Ebola virus. Soldiers from Fort Riley joining other troops in Iraq as part of the effort to fight terrorist organizations. It is abundantly clear that: 1) the United States military is fully engaged; 2) new missions keep cropping up; and 3) the world is not getting any safer.
Against that backdrop is the ongoing specter of sequestration and the possibility of operating under continuing resolutions (CR) past the Dec. 11 expiration date of the current one. We don’t know what a lame-duck Congress will do when they return to the Capitol after the November elections, but we do know what Army leaders are saying.
In a recess address, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said that should sequestration resume in fiscal year 2016, "it will be very difficult for us to lead around the world. Fiscal year 2016 is a breaking point. I'm not seeing peace breaking out around the world in ."
Odierno said that in fiscal 2016, the budget will go down $9 billion from what it is now. That would have a "significant degradation" on the force "because I cannot take people out fast enough." He also said that manpower, modernization and training need to be kept in balance even as the budget shrinks but that it's currently out of balance with too many Soldiers and not enough dollars to properly train and equip them.
Sequestration takes "a large percentage of a small portion of the budget" that would have otherwise gone to training and equipping the force, he said. The slashed budget will delay aircraft purchases, platform upgrades, improved command and control systems and a host of other needed requirements for years to come.
The active Army is now 510,000, which is down from a high of 570,000. It will be 490,000 by the end of fiscal year 2015, 470,000 by fiscal year 2016, 415,000 by fiscal year 2017, and 420,000 by fiscal year 2019, Odierno said.
Before the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, and the Russian incursion into Ukraine, Odierno said he testified to lawmakers that a reduction to 450,000 would pose a "significant" security risk and 420,000 would mean the Army would be unable to "execute our current strategy." Since that time, the risk has increased. The ability of the Army to deploy Soldiers to a number of hot spots around the world simultaneously "causes me grave concern," he said. "I'm in a box."
What we find particularly appalling is Gen. Odierno’s admission that he has approved correspondence replying to numerous lawmakers who are concerned that the Army will reduce the number of Soldiers on installations in their home states.
"I wrote back that 'the reason I'm taking Soldiers out of your installation and out of your state is because of sequestration. Not that I want to do it.' That's the dilemma we're in," Odierno said. "In my opinion, we've got to have a security debate in this country and decide what we want to do. Not a budget debate, a security debate about what capabilities and responsibilities we want from our Army."
In his closing remarks, Gen. Odierno said that sequestration and degradation of readiness, even as unforeseen problems emerge in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere “is a lousy way to plan and do business."
We could not agree more. It is imperative that Congress passes the defense spending bill and not another continuing resolution. After that, they must address sequestration.
AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., has been on this bandwagon since the notion of sequestration raised its ugly head three years ago. He recently told Congress that their time is fast running out. “We don’t have a year to fix what ails our national defense. We must stop sequestration now. We must cease downsizing now. We must rely on the elected, appointed and uniformed leaders of this nation to structure forces capable of ensuring our security. We have precious little time to show the world how good we are.”
To those of you who have heeded our call to action time and time again - Thank you! Thank you for taking a moment to send letters to your elected officials to let them know how important this is. We encourage everyone to jump on Gen. Sullivan’s bandwagon and write again.
We have two AUSA-suggested letters available on the Contact Congress link on our website http://capwiz.com/ausa/home/. The first letter titled “Action is needed on the Defense Appropriation and Authorization Bills!!” urges the Senate to pass these critical bills. The second letter is titled “End Sequestration Permanently.”
As Sullivan said, “Let’s work together to find a better way to solve our budget crisis than the inefficient and ineffective “slash and burn” called sequestration. We must focus on the future and consider the impact that decisions made today will have on our future national security. Vigilance backed by competent and ready civil and military forces will ensure our national defense and national cohesion will ensure our safety.”