McHugh Details Sequestration Dangers, Talks Army Priorities

U.S. Army photo
U.S. Army photo

WASHINGTON -- If sequestration triggers this year it will affect every person and mission the U.S. Army has, Army Secretary John McHugh said during a Defense Writer's Group breakfast, Feb. 25.

McHugh told reporters that right now his top three priorities are the budget, anything dealing with deployed or forward-deployed forces and combating sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 is still the law of the land and that imposes caps on military spending. For fiscal 2014 and 2015, Congress provided relief, but the caps are due to come back in full force in fiscal 2016. If that happens, the active-duty force would drop to 420,000 Soldiers. Today, the force is just under 500,000.

"There will virtually be no corner of the Army that will be untouched," McHugh said. "Obviously, the primary concern that we discuss in these very uncertain times are the readiness ratings for Soldiers and whatever tomorrow's missions might be."

Army readiness would drop as the service would not be able to protect funding for home-station training. The reduction in end strength itself would be a disaster, he said. The Army would have to cut more brigade combat teams, or BCTs, with all the concomitant effects on dwell time and mission capabilities. "It's likely, in the active component, that we would have to come down to 27, 28 BCTs," he said. "That provides reduced capacity to go out and do missions."

Sequestration would waste millions of acquisition dollars, McHugh said. The service has made great progress in saving money via multi-year procurement contracts. Under sequestration, those contracts would be in breach and the prices go up.

"Whether it's readiness, or our acquisition/modernization programs or the sheer numbers of available Soldiers to go out and do missions, all would be severely diminished," he said. "We would be unable to follow the current defense strategic guidance."

The secretary is also focused on the 147,000 Soldiers the service has in harm's way or that are forward deployed.

"Many of them are on active missions," he said.

McHugh said that balancing the Army's available resources against the "absolutely essential" needs of those Soldiers, as well as getting them the equipment and the training they need is something he needs to spend time on.

The third priority is dealing with sexual assault and sexual abuse. "This is totally unacceptable to our core values," he said. "It rips apart our Army and I truly believe if we don't get this under control it calls into question the integrity of the entire Army. If we don't fix this, we're a far lesser Army."

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Army Budget