Sequestration Jeopardizes Army’s Readiness, Odierno Says
At an Association of U.S. Army breakfast session last week, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno summed up the consequences of operating under the looming threat of automatic defense cuts and the possibility that the Defense Department will be funded under a continuing resolution for the remainder of fiscal 2013.
“Our biggest challenge is getting the right balance, and we can’t do that until we have predictability in our budget process. If we don’t have predictability, it’s impossible for us to build a balanced force of end-strength modernization readiness,” he said.
The chief of staff’s comments come as more and more lawmakers on Capitol Hill are describing sequestration as inevitable. On Sunday, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the unwillingness of Senate Democrats, along with the White House, to agree on a set of spending reductions to replace the automatic cuts means they will go ahead as scheduled.
“I think the sequester is going to happen,” Ryan told host David Gregory on “Meet the Press.”
Odierno said that if sequestration is imposed starting March 1 — which would force DOD to identity FY 2013 savings of about $45 billion — the Army would experience extremely low levels of readiness within six months, reported Army News Service.
“We’ll have to reduce our work in the depots which will delay the reset of our equipment coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan,” Odierno said. “We’re going to have to delay the maintenance on our current fleet, and the sad part about this is once you start these delays, it will take longer and longer and longer to catch up; so this won’t be just a ’13 (2013) readiness issue, it will be a readiness issue that will go into ’14 and ’15,” he said.
The Army’s operation and maintenance account would suffer a $6 billion hit if the existing stopgap spending measure funding the government is extended through Sept. 30. “It’s because we’re not able to move money around in a continuing resolution, we’re over-prescribed in one part of the budget, we’re under-prescribed in another part of the budget, so we have a $6 billion shortfall,” Odierno explained.
If sequestration is triggered, the Army’s operation and maintenance account likely would be forced to absorb an additional $6 billion reduction this year, with an additional $4 billion loss in the operations account needed for warfighting in Afghanistan.
“So the Army is facing [almost] $17 billion worth of shortfalls that we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with if we don’t come to some conclusions by the first of March,” Odierno said.