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AUSA Backs Bill to Stop Force Cuts

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Association of the U.S. Army has thrown its support behind new legislation that would halt further planned force cuts in active-duty strength and maintain a Regular Army of 480,000 soldiers.

“At a time when our Army is confronting growing threats and increasing operational demands, it would be wise to pause the current budget-driven force reductions and allow the next administration time to assess land force capabilities and needs before determining troop levels,” retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, AUSA’s president and CEO, wrote in a letter to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.).

The legislation, H.R. 4534, is called Protecting Our Security Through Utilizing Right-Sized End Strength —POSTURE—Act of 2016.

“Given the volatile, uncertain and ambiguous world and the need for trained and ready land forces of the United States, in conjunction with joint and multinational forces, to deter threats, shape the international security environment, respond to emergent situations and crises, and, if necessary, to fight and win the nation’s wars … the planned drawdown of land forces should be immediately stopped,” the bill language states.

Under current plans, the Regular Army is due to shrink to 475,000 soldiers by the start of fiscal year 2017 this October, and to 450,000 by the start of FY 2019. Personnel cuts are also on tap for the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.

“Such a reduction in our land power capability does not make sense in a time of increased threats and global instability,” Sullivan wrote.

Gibson’s bill, introduced Feb. 11 and referred to the House Armed Services Committee, has attracted 26 cosponsors to date, including 19 Republicans and seven Democrats. A companion bill was introduced Feb. 22 in the Senate by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) So far, only Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has signed on as a cosponsor in that chamber.

Army leaders have been stepping up their public criticism of further active-duty cuts. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, outgoing commander of U.S. Central Command, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee that in his professional judgment, the Army is getting “dangerously small.”

But Sullivan noted in his letter to Gibson that while the legislation would put the brakes on budget-driven force reductions, the Army would have other problems if the additional end strength called for in the bill is not fully funded.

Army officials, including Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, have bluntly told lawmakers in recent hearings that stopping end strength cuts without providing additional money to cover the costs of maintaining more troops would hurt readiness and veer toward a “hollow” Army.

“AUSA looks forward to working with you to advance the POSTURE Act, but urges you to consider ways to provide the additional resources to prepare our Army to face a dangerous and increasingly unstable world,” Sullivan wrote.