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Budget Standoff Threatens Army Growth

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U.S. Army
Thursday, April 06, 2017

April 6, 2017

The Army’s efforts to grow could come to a screeching halt if it runs out of money for training the additional soldiers, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley warned Congress.

It was a dire warning that congressionally approved increases in the number of active and reserve component soldiers will be impossible to reach if Congress doesn’t pass a full-year funding bill. “All efforts to increase Army end strength, as mandated in the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act by you for the Regular Army, the National Guard and the Army Reserve, will cease,” Milley told the House Armed Services Committee, the power panel that is pushing for the troop increases.

The Defense Department has been operating under limited temporary funding since the fiscal year began on Oct. 1. The temporary funding expires at the end of April.

Instead of growing by 16,000 Regular Army, 8,000 Army National Guard and 4,000 Army Reserve soldiers by Oct. 1, the Army would be forced to resume the pre-2017 drawdown. “It will stop recruiting,” Milley said, a situation that represents a “significant degradation of capability over time.”

His warning came at a hearing focused on the problem facing the services from operating with temporary funding. Milley said the Army could completely stop recruiting to live with a constrained budget, something that would have a ripple effect across the force that could hurt combat readiness.

Units already are suffering from not having enough soldiers, he said, noting he has units in training that only have 60 to 70 percent of authorized strength when they should be 90 to 95 percent full. “Operationally, it means that units are going to go to the field at less than optimal strength for training,” Milley said. Training money could begin drying up in May, he said, forcing the cancellation of annual rotations to the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center. Some collective and home station training could also stop.