By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 10, 2014 – While last year’s bipartisan budget act restored some fiscal year 2014 funding to the Army, helping to restore readiness, the funds were not sufficient to bring back capabilities lost during a decade of counterinsurgency operations and through sequestration, the Army’s vice chief of staff told a House panel today.
The current level of funding for fiscal year 2015 will allow the Army to sustain current readiness levels, but is not enough to do more than generate the minimum level of readiness required to fulfil the defense strategy, Army Gen. John F. Campbell told members of the readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
Moreover, Campbell said, if sequestration reductions occur as planned in fiscal year 2016 and beyond, then manning, readiness and modernization efforts will be severely degraded and the Army will not be able to execute the strategic guidance.
“Due to [fiscal year 2013] Budget Control Act spending caps, the Army canceled seven combat training rotations and significantly reduced home station training, negatively impacting readiness and leader development,” the general said.
“These lost opportunities only added to the gap created between 2004 and 2011 as the Army focused exclusively on counterinsurgency,” he said.
If a crisis were to arise, these units would be deployed at a significantly lower readiness level, Campbell said.
“They will accomplish their mission, but … probably with higher casualties,” he added.
Sequestration in fiscal year 2013 also led the Army to defer about $716 million worth of equipment reset in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, the general said.
“The Army was also forced to cut routine maintenance for non- deployed units,” he said, “thereby creating an additional $73.5 million in deferred cost that carried over to FY '14.”
Some of the Army’s most skilled civilians -- many in highly technical fields -- were lost as a result of the six-week furlough and two years of frozen salaries, Campbell said.
To preserve funding for readiness and modernization, the Army is in the midst of an accelerated drawdown to 490,000 active duty soldiers, 350,000 National Guardsmen, and 202,000 reservists by the end of fiscal year 2015, he said.
More force strength reductions are ahead, the general told the committee.
“By the end of FY '17, we'll further decrease end strength to 450,000 in the active, 335,000 in the Army National Guard and 195,000 in the U.S. Army Reserve component,” Campbell said.
With 70 percent of these cuts coming to the active Army, the balance of active and reserve soldiers will tip toward a larger reserve force, he said. “So, we will have more reliance on our National Guard and our reserve,” the general noted.
“In conjunction with this rapid drawdown, the Army is reorganizing the brigade combat teams and restructuring our aviation formations to achieve a leaner, more efficient force that balances operational capability and flexibility,” he said.
As the Army draws down and restructures over the next three to four years, it will have readiness and modernization deficiencies, Campbell said.
“Fiscal realities have caused us to implement tiered readiness as a bridging strategy,” he said. “Under tiered readiness, only 20 percent of the total operational force will conduct collective training to a level necessary to meet our strategic requirements.”
The readiness of multi-functional and theater support brigades, in-home-station training, installation readiness and infrastructure all will face increased risk, the general said.
“Base operation support levels remain under-resourced and must be a future priority as additional funds become available,” Campbell said.
“This year and next are critical to deciding the fate of what is the greatest Army in the world,” he said.
Campbell said he is concerned about what would happen to Army base funds in fiscal year 2015 if overseas contingency operations funding is not approved before the start of fiscal year 2015.
“Absent approval of OCO funding, we would be required to support OCO-funded missions with base funds, which would immediately begin degrading readiness across the total Army,” he said.
The Army is ultimately about its people, the general said.
“And as we downsize, we are committed to taking care of those who have sacrificed so much for our nation over the past 12-plus years of war. Assisting our transitioning veterans, our wounded warriors [and] our Gold Star families will remain a top priority and we must protect the programs that support their needs,” Campbell said.