U.S. Army reset and modernization programs face several budgetary risks over the next several months, Army chief Gen. Raymond Odierno said May 16.
The biggest threat is sequestration, which would trigger almost $600 billion in defense spending cuts on top of the $500 billion already planned for, beginning in January 2013. Such reductions would be “disastrous” for the Army, Odierno said.
“It would cause a hollowness, a significant hollowness in the force,” he said.
While the service is already planning to cut more than 70,000 troops over the next several years, the congressionally mandated cuts would force the Army to cull another 80,000 to 100,000 troops from its active-duty and Reserve rosters, the general told reporters at the Pentagon.
While the threat of sequestration hangs over the Pentagon, a fiscal 2013 budget proposal submitted by the House Armed Services Committee would also force the Army to cap its planned force reductions at 552,000 troops, which Odierno said is at odds with the 543,000-soldier end strength he is planning to reach by the end of fiscal 2013.
The higher number is problematic because “we will not be able to use attrition — this might cause us to force more people out of the Army than we want instead of using natural attrition.” About 65 percent to 70 percent of the Army’s planned reduction-in-force size will come through natural attrition, the general said.
“I’ve talked with the House. I’ve told them that I don’t agree with those amendments. I’d like to see them adjustable,” he added. Specifically, if the higher end strength number carries the day, “we start to lose the balance between what I call the three rheostats, which are end strength, readiness and modernization,” he said. “What we don’t want is a hollow force.”
Sequestration, plus the larger force size, “would probably cause us to breach many contracts that we already have in place,” Odierno said, “because we would not meet the current requirements that we have on our developmental contracts, so it would affect every asset that we have in every area,” he said.
Odierno also said his staff is not planning for sequestration, which has been the official line coming from all the services and the secretary of defense.