Via The Hill:
The Army’s already shrinking ground force could get a whole lot smaller if Congress can’t find a way to spare the service from the sequestration axe, according to the Army chief of staff..
Slashing another 100,000 active duty troops from its ranks will be the only way Army leaders can pay their share of the $1.2 trillion in budget cuts aimed at defense coffers under the looming sequestration plan, Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. The Pentagon is facing the possible cuts because of the failure of a supercommittee of lawmakers to agree to a deficit-reduction plan.
Under legislation that lifted the debt ceiling last year, the supercommittee’s failure triggered $1.2 trillion in cuts to the federal budget that are to be implemented starting in 2013, with about half due to come out of the military.
“This would result in severe reductions in the National Guard, the Army Reserve and additional reductions in the active component and will significantly decrease what the Army can do for our joint force,” Odierno said. “In my estimation, sequestration would require us to fundamentally relook how we provide national security.”
The latter point is particularly frustrating and disconcerting. After all, the primary responsibility of the federal government is to ensure the safety and protection of the American people. Simply put, these spending cuts – according to General Odierno – will make it increasingly difficult for members of the armed forces and the intelligence community to do their jobs.
As expected, Republican lawmakers were outraged by the general’s testimony:
“I think, you know, there needs to be a wakeup call up here that we need to act and act soon in order to avoid that,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said on the need to come up with an alternative to sequestration.
“I don't think we can afford to wait . . . [and] put the Department of Defense and our men and women who have served in uniform and continue to serve in uniform in this position,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) added.
Compounding the problem is that the personnel cuts under sequestration would be executed across the board, Army Secretary John McHugh said during the same hearing. That makes implementation “a relatively easy mathematical change, but it makes it an administrative nightmare,” McHugh said. Earlier this week, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told the Senate appropriators the time and effort involved to simply prepare a game plan to adopt the sequestration cuts would effectively shut down the military for months.