By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2015 – Service members and their families are concerned about potential sequester-caused cuts to the military’s budget and possible changes to quality of life, pay and compensation programs, the services’ senior enlisted advisors told a House panel here Feb. 25.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael D. Stevens, Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Ronald L. Green, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody appeared before the House Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs to discuss their respective branches quality of life.
Army: Fiscal Issues Harm Trust
The Army’s senior enlisted leader said adequate funding is key to showing soldiers how much leadership cares.
“Adequate resourcing allows Army leaders to demonstrate how much we care for our soldiers,” Dailey said. When properly resourced, he said, the Army is better able to meet the needs of its soldiers, families as well as Army civilians.
Caring for the Army’s people, Dailey said, is non-negotiable for both himself and all the Army leaders he represents.
“Caring for our people builds trust, and trust is built with predictability,” Dailey said. This, he said, “is the unwritten contract” between the American people, its leaders and the Army’s soldiers and civilians.
Dailey said that as an advocate for the “greatest team the world has ever known,” he is very conscious that every fiscal decision has the potential to impact soldiers.
“Trust in leaders is essential. Not only does this affect our readiness today -- it affects the all-volunteer Army of tomorrow,” he said.
“The Total Army team must always trust that we have their best interests at heart,” Dailey said. Perhaps the greatest enemy to the Army’s future, he said, is fiscal uncertainty.
Without adequate and predictable resources, Dailey said, the Army cannot plan and conduct required training, maintain high-quality soldier and family programs, and “be the most technologically advanced Army this planet has ever seen.”
The potential return of sequestration-level funding is a tipping point, Dailey said, between the Army’s ability to maintain its responsiveness and its ability to maintain trust with its soldiers and civilians.
Navy: Sailors Concerned About Compensation, Health Care
Stevens said his conversations with sailors and their families over the past year have shown they’re overall satisfied with their quality of life.
“However, the ongoing discussion regarding possible changes to future pay and compensation has created an air of uncertainty,” he added.
Stevens said while the “spirit” of budgetary reform is to reinvest in quality of life, the Navy’s sailors are concerned that more reductions will follow in medical benefits, pay and compensation, and family programs.
“The Navy is working very hard to minimize this impact and ease their concerns,” he said, “but the fact remains -- they are concerned.”
Stevens said while he has many concerns for his sailors, if asked to pick one, his “greatest and immediate concern” would be the future of their health care.
“Health care is a quality of life issue that consistently resurfaces during my fleet interactions,” he said. “It is extremely important to our sailors and their families and is very influential in recruiting and retention decisions.”
Stevens pointed to the state of single-sailor barracks, which have fallen to 50 percent adequacy. And family support programs, which are relied on to sustain resiliency, also concern him.
“We can never take for granted these sacrifices that our sailors and their families make,” he said. “Health care, barracks, and family support programs are areas that must be valued and protected for force readiness, recruitment, retention, and quality of life.”
Marines: Decisions Must Balance Readiness
Green said Marines’ operational tempo remains high despite the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Marine Corps’ combat readiness, he said, is derived from unit, personal and family readiness.
“With the current fiscal climate, we may have to take risk in many areas,” Green said. “To meet our responsibilities we prioritize near-term readiness while assuming risk in our hometown stations, modernization, infrastructure sustainment, and quality of life programs.”
Family readiness and quality of life are key Fundamentals “of overall readiness and combat effectiveness,” he said. Green said the decisions leaders make are balanced and have synergy in areas of readiness. However, he added, within the past year his service has had to take significant financial cuts in core quality-of-life areas, while protecting programs like behavioral health and sexual assault prevention and response.
“Funding levels for the Marine Corps below the presidential budget may force a choice between quality of life and quality of work,” Green said. “We may be forced to choose between the most-ready Marines or morale and family support services such as child care and family readiness programs.”
The Marine Corps takes care of its own -- including its families, Green said. That commitment is unwavering, he emphasized, and having to choose between quality of life at home and readiness for combat abroad is not a choice that should have to be made.
Airmen Serve Proudly Despite Uncertainty
The Air Force, with a total force of more than 670,000 members, is at its smallest size since it was established in 1947, Cody said.
“This is historic for us,” he said, “and it is also exacerbated by the fact that we are more globally engaged today and continue to operate in the longest sustained combat operations in the history of our country.
“On top of all this,” Cody continued, “we do this with an all-volunteer force -- a force that continues to experience uncertainty and churn with respect to mission capability, compensation, and the meaning of service.”
It must not be forgotten, he said, that the men and women who volunteer to serve in the Air Force and other service branches do so freely and proudly because they believe in what America stands for and stand ready to defend it.
“There is no question the past year has been extremely stressful on all members of the Air Force -- active duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and civilians,” Cody said.
Joined by his wife, Athena, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Cameron B. Kirksey of the Air Force Reserve, Cody said both spouses can attest to the concerns of airmen and their families.
“Both have visited with thousands of airmen and family members over the past year,” he said, “and have listened to their concerns and witnessed, firsthand, their passion for service, and they can affirm the impact of the uncertainty … on our force today.”
Despite that stress, airmen continue to serve proudly and are grateful to the subcommittee for its longstanding support, Cody said.