9 July 2015 Legislative News Update

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Thursday, July 09, 2015

weekly electronic newsletter, and is published 
every Thursday when Congress is in session.








Over a year ago, the Army announced that they would cut 40,000 soldiers from the active force. 

Through testimony from the Army leadership and numerous warnings from this Association about the impact of fiscal constraints resulting from the Budget Control Act of 2011, the decision to reduce the Army from 490,000 troops to 450,000 should come as no surprise to anyone especially Congress.

However, now that the Army has provided the specifics of their plan, many in Congress are not happy.  The unhappy group includes the Chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees as well as those members who will lose manpower in their states and districts.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who leads the Armed Services Committee said, “The Army’s plan to cut 40,000 troops from its ranks is another dangerous consequence of budget-driven strategy.  In the next few years, the Army will complete a force reduction from a peak of about 570,000 to 450,000 soldiers.  Any conceivable strategic rationale for this cut to Army end-strength has been overturned by the events of the last few years from the rise of ISIL, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Ebola crisis, and more.  Worse, if mindless sequestration cuts are allowed to return, the Army will shrink to 420,000 troops, increasing the risk that in a crisis, we will have too few soldiers who could enter a fight without proper training or equipment.”

His counterpart in the House, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, had a similar reaction.  “People who believe the world is safer, that we can do with less defense spending and 40,000 fewer Soldiers, will take this as good news.  I am not one of those people.”

The biggest loser in the Army’s plan is Fort Benning, Georgia, who stands to drop approximately 3400 soldiers.  Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, both located in Texas, will take an approximate cut of 4500 soldiers – 3350 from Hood and 1200 from Bliss.  Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, will lose approximately 2600; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, will lose approximately 1250; and, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, will lose approximately 1200 soldiers.

In addition to the 40,000, the Army plans to cut 17,000 Department of the Army civilians.  They anticipate that the majority of those cuts will be absorbed through attrition and positions that are currently unfilled. 

The reduction of force structure will occur in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 and the reduction of 40,000 in end strength will be completed by the end of fiscal year 2018.  

AUSA’s Vice President for Education, Lt. Gen. Guy C. Swan III, U.S. Army, Retired, released a statement late yesterday.  Swan said, “There is no doubt that communities will suffer under these reductions.  Beyond the local economic impact, AUSA is on record as stating that an active component force of less than 490,000 presents unacceptable risks to America's ability to protect our interests worldwide.  This is especially true given that regional combatant commanders are asking for more land forces—not less—for engagement, exercises, training, advising and assisting, and more. Risks will be exacerbated by cutting to 450,000 active soldiers.”

“Things could get even worse. If sequestration continues to the end of the decade, the active Army could drop to as low as 420,000 soldiers.  At this level, the Army could not meet the demands of the current defense strategic guidance.”

“It is not only the Army that is affected, but the Army's ability to meet its obligations to the rest of the joint force, fulfill various executive agency requirements done on behalf of the entire DoD, and support coalition partners with key enablers.”

Clearly, numbers like 450,000 or 420,000 have no real meaning to the public because there is no frame of reference; 450,000 sounds sufficient.  But significant reductions at local bases will get some attention, certainly by members of Congress who have constituents there.  Our hope is that the announcement of these reductions will be enough to change course, but that is an open question at this point.

Finally, it is important to note that these reductions (to 450,00 active soldiers) are all coming from the active Army, with the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve remaining relatively stable.  This is recognition of the vital role that the Army's reserve forces play in a Total Army.  However, in the next round of cuts, I think you can expect the Guard and Reserve to feel significant impacts as well.”

It is unclear if the Army’s announcement of the details and the harsh reaction from Congress will be enough to reverse course.  If there are enough lawmakers up in arms, there is time for the Army to get extra money in the 2016 budget to avoid end strength reductions in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.