By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2015 – With sequestration looming in the 2016 budget, the Army chief of staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that the national security environment is the most uncertain he’s seen in his nearly 40 years of service.
Gen. Ray T. Odierno reported that instability continues to increase globally, especially in light of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, whose unforeseen expansion and erosion of order there and in Syria have significantly heightened conflict in the region and beyond.
“It will challenge us to meet even our current level of commitments to our allies and partners around the world [and] will eliminate our capability, on any scale, to conduct simultaneous operations, specifically deterring in one region while defeating [an opposing force] in another,” he said.
During the past three years “we have already significantly reduced the capabilities of the United States Army, and this is before sequestration begins again in 2016,” Odierno told the Senate panel.
“In the last three years,” the general said, “the Army’s active component end strength has been reduced by 80,000; the Reserve component by 18,000.”
Sequestration’s possible return also portends additional cuts of 70,000 active-duty troops, an additional 35,000 from the National Guard, and another 10,000 from the Army Reserve by fiscal year 2020, Odierno added.
Odierno explained sequestration’s impact from a strategic perspective.
“It will challenge us to meet even our current level of commitments to our allies and partners around the world [and] will eliminate our capability, on any scale, to conduct simultaneous operations, specifically deterring in one region while defeating [an opposing force] in another,” he said. “Essentially, for ground forces, sequestration even puts into question our ability to conduct even one prolonged, multiphase, combined arms campaign against a determined enemy.”
Challenges in Europe, the Pacific
U.S. Army readiness also remains a challenge in Europe, Odierno said, adding that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine challenges the resolve of the European Union and NATO’s effectiveness.
And, he said, China’s military modernization efforts in the Pacific raise concerns regarding U.S. forces, allies and regional interests while the cycle of North Korean provocation continues to increase.
With 13 fewer active component brigade combat teams and the elimination of three active aviation brigades and about 800 rotary wing aircraft from the Army inventory, readiness has dipped to its lowest levels in 20 years, according to Odierno.
“In FY13, under sequestration, only 10 percent of our brigade combat teams were ready,” the general said. “Combat training center rotations for seven brigade combat teams were cancelled and over half a billion dollars of maintenance was deferred, both affecting training and readiness of our units.”
The general also reported a 25-percent paring in Army modernization investments.
“We have eliminated our much needed infantry fighting vehicle modernization program [and] our scout helicopter development program,” the general said. “We have significantly delayed other upgrades for many of our systems and aging platforms.”
Ultimately, sequestration limits strategic flexibility and requires the Army to hope to accurately predict the future, something Odierno said the service has not been able to do.
“Today, our soldiers are supporting five named operations on six continents, with nearly 140,000 soldiers committed, deployed, or forward-stationed in over 140 countries,” Odierno said. “They remain professional and dedicated – to the mission, to the Army, and to the nation – with the very foundation of our soldiers and our profession being built on trust.”