Budget Controls Must Be Lifted To Boost Readiness, Vice Chiefs Say
Military readiness will suffer if the budget constraints imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 are not repealed and are allowed to again take effect in fiscal year 2018, the military’s vice chiefs of staff told members of the House Armed Services Committee today.
Testifying before the full committee were Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William F. Moran and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Glenn M. Walters.
Challenging Time for Nation, Army
“This is a challenging time for our nation, and our Army,” Allyn said. “The unipolar moment is over, and replacing it is a multipolar world characterized by competition and uncertainty. Today, the Army is globally engaged, with more than 182,000 soldiers supporting combatant commanders in over 140 worldwide locations.”
To meet the demands of today's unstable global security environment and maintain the trust placed in soldiers by the American people, the Army requires sustained long-term and predictable funding, he said.
“Adding additional legislation, the caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 will return in [fiscal year 2018], forcing the Army to once again draw down or restrict, reduce funding for readiness and increase the risk of sending undertrained and poorly equipped soldiers into harm's way,” Allyn said. “[It’s] a preventable risk our nation must not accept.”
He added, “The most important actions you can take … that will have both positive and lasting impact, will be to immediately repeal the 2011 Budget Control Act and ensure sufficient funding to train, man and equip the FY 17 [National Defense Authorization Act] authorized force.”
If the act isn’t repealed, additional top line and overseas contingency operations funding will prove unsustainable, Allyn said.
Navy’s Demand for Forces
Moran told committee members the ongoing demand for U.S. Naval forces far exceeds its long-term supply. And, he added, the Navy is the smallest it's been in 99 years, making it urgent to “adequately fund, fix and maintain the fleet we do have.”
The U.S. Navy has never been busier in a world of global threats, Moran said.
While the Navy is getting the job done, Moran said, he added that the unrelenting pace, inadequate resources and small size are taking their toll.
“For years, we've all learned to live with less and less, we have certainly learned to execute our budget inefficiently with nine consecutive continuing resolutions,” Moran said.
But this has forced the Navy to repeatedly take money from cash accounts that are the lifeblood of building long-term readiness in its ranks, he said.
“It's money for young lieutenants to fly high and fast, and who need air under their seats to perfect their skills in the future. It's money for spare parts so sailors can fix the gear that they have. It's money for sailors to operate at sea in all kinds conditions to build instincts that create the best war fighters world,” the admiral emphasized.
With the committee’s help, the opportunity to change the situation exists, Moran said.
“It starts by strengthening our foundation,” he said. “Let's ensure the ships and aircraft that we do have are maintained and modernized so they provide the full measure of combat power. Let's fill in the holes by eliminating inventory shortfalls in ships, submarines [and] aircraft throughout the fleet. Together by taking these steps, we can achieve the ultimate goal of sizing the Navy to meet the strategic demands of this dynamic and changing world.”
Air Force’s Growing Needs
The capabilities the Air Force provides the nation and its allies have never been more vital, and the global demand for American airpower will only grow in the future, Wilson said. However, today’s Air Force is out of balance, he said.
Years of “continuous combat,” Wilson said, have limited the Air Force’s ability to prepare for the future against advanced future threats.
This, paired with budget instability and lower-than-planned budgets has been at issue in the Air Force, he said.
“We've attempted to balance risk across [the] force to maintain readiness,” Wilson said. “And we've forced to make unacceptable trades between readiness for structure and modernization.”
Today's global challenges require an Air Force that’s ready, not only to defeat violent extremism, but an Air Force prepared to modernize for any threat the nation could face, he added.
“Your Air Force needs congressional support to repeal the Budget Control Act and provide stable, predictable funding. It's critical to rebuilding our military full-spectrum readiness, is the number one priority for the secretary of defense. We need to act now, before it's too late,” Wilson said.
Marine Corps’ Budget Concerns
The Marine Corps’ operational tempo remains as high today as it was during the peak of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Corps faces substantial challenges with fiscal uncertainty and funding reductions, Walters told committee members.
“Your Marine Corps is insufficiently manned, trained and equipped across the depth of the force to operate in an ever-evolving operational environment, he said. “With years of fiscal constraints, the Marine Corps is fundamentally optimized for the past and has sacrificed modernization and infrastructure to sustain our current readiness posture.”
The Corps’ active component end strength must be increased by 3,000 a year to maintain its high standards, Walters said.
“The continued underfunding of this sustainment restoration and modernization and military construction continues to call for progressive degradation of our infrastructure and creates long-term cost,” he said.
“If forced to continue the pursuit of investing in legacy systems in lieu of modernizing our force, we will find our Marine Corps optimized for the past and increasingly at risk to deter and defeat our potential adversaries,” Walters said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)