WASHINGTON – If sequestration-level cuts are imposed for budget years beyond 2015,the armed forces will face cuts in pay and retirement benefits. But even the 2015 budget will mean a decrease in the number of troops in each branch of service.
President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 did not include the Overseas Contingency Operations funds in the Department of Defense budget. OCO funds have been an integral part U.S. armed forces operation and maintenance.
The chief of staffs from the four armed service branches said Thursday they could complete their missions under the 2015 budget proposal,but it means a lot of changes.
Rep. Rob Wittman,R-Va.,chaired the hearing of the subcommittee on military readiness of the House Armed Services Committee. He said he wants “to ensure we have the most ready,capable,and proficient military in the world.”
The members of the subcommittee asked the witnesses similar questions about the position of the armed services if OCO funds are not included in the budget.
Wittman asked the witnesses – where are we in current state of readiness now? Where would we be if OCO dollars were to disappear? And where would we be in the face of sequestration?
Gen. John F. Campbell,vice chief of staff,U.S. Army,said the 2015 budget means reducing the number of soldiers.
He said the Army would end up with 980,000 soldiers by 2017 under the current budget proposal – 450,000 active duty soldiers,335,000 in the National Guard and 195,000 in the Army Reserve. That is a 21 percent decrease in active duty soldiers,a 5 percent reduction in the reserves and a 6.4 percent reduction in the National Guard since 2011.
Campbell described a delicate balance.
“Cutting too much manpower risks not having sufficient forces to fulfill our strategic mission and deter our enemies,” Campbell said,adding he wants to avoid “a hollow Army.”
That,he said,is a large force without adequate training or equipment. A smaller well-trained force would be more effective.
Adm. Mark Ferguson,vice chief of naval operations,said that with the proposed 2015 budget,the Navy will be able to invest in energy-efficient tools that will improve endurance,range and flexibility.
“A return to sequestration spending levels in FY16 and beyond will lead us to a Navy that would be insufficient in size and capability to conduct the missions of the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance,” he said.
Gen. John M. Paxton,Marine Corps assistant commandant,said that sustained funding reductions will adversely affect near- and long-term readiness.
Gen. Larry O. Spencer,Air Force vice chief of staff,said if sequestration continues it will hamper the Air Force’s efforts to improve and upgrade weapons systems.
“The deferments mean idle production shops,a degradation of workforce proficiency and productivity,and corresponding future volatility and operational costs. Analysis shows it can take up to three years to recover full restoration of depot workforce productivity and proficiency,” he said.
All the witnesses said OCO funds are used for more than operations and maintenance. The money pays for operations for developing readiness against any threat to the nation’s security. In addition to that,these funds also help in repairing and improving weapons.
Rep. Bill Enyart,D-Ill.,said the military needs to develop strategic agility to solve the problems the armed forces are facing.
“We spend trillion of dollars on our defense,we spend hundreds and billions of dollars on our military and what is it that we are doing wrong? That we can’t defeat folks with RPG’s and AK-47s,when we have the finest military in the world,” he said.
Reach reporter Kritika Gadhvi at email@example.com or 202-326-9868. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.