WASHINGTON – Funding allocations below President Barack Obama’s budget proposal levels will risk the Reserve components’ ability to fulfill the nation’s global security requirements and worsen readiness challenges, senior leaders from the Army Reserve and National Guard said this week.
Acting Army National Guard Director Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons and Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley discussed the readiness impacts of sequestration during testimony alongside National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Frank J. Grass and other senior leaders before the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee.
Army National Guard
According to Lyons, the Army National Guard maintains facilities in nearly 2,600 communities, where it has built relationships with local leaders and first responders.
“It’s this community presence that enables the Guard to react so quickly when civil authorities request our assistance,” he said.
“The Army Guard responded to 45 major disaster declarations in 32 states and territories in 2014. Our missions never cease, and they don’t end at the water’s edge.”
Through years of war, Lyons said, the Army Guard has trained and deployed with the active Army as a part of the joint team. Since 2001, it has mobilized soldiers more than 536,000 times performing missions ranging from counterinsurgency operations to peace keeping, he added.
“This experience has transformed the Army Guard from a Cold War-era strategic reserve to a combat-seasoned operational force,” he said.
Lyons thanked the congressional panel for its support and resourcing through programs such as the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation, which he said have helped transform the National Guard.
“Through your efforts,” he said, “our total Army remains the most formidable, capable land force in the world. In an unpredictable and dangerous world, the Army Guard serves as a powerful hedge against uncertainty.”
Lyons said there is a constant need for a ready, scalable and experienced force at home and abroad. “If permitted to atrophy, the wide-ranging capabilities of the Army Guard will be difficult to restore,” he said.
Readiness Concerns Remain
Lyons said while the president’s 2016 fiscal year budget proposal does increase funding for operations and maintenance, plus personnel accounts, “some readiness concerns remain.”
“The budget provides for Army Guard end strength at 342,000,” he said. “That’s 8,200 less from our current authorized strength. This could lengthen response times for domestic emergencies and it leaves fewer forces available for overseas missions.”
“The Army Guard achieved the highest level of medical readiness in our history in 2014,” Lyons said. “This readiness is beginning to trend down, though, due to the risk we’ve already accepted in these accounts in 2015.”
The general also said the budget’s increased training funds -- essential for leader development and maintaining the Army Guard as an operational force -- provides for two combat training center rotations, but limits the majority of the force to individual crew and squad-level proficiency.
Lyons also thanked the panel for supporting readiness and well-being programs such as behavioral health, suicide prevention, sexual assault prevention and other critical programs.
“The dedicated men and women of our Army Guard formations present tremendous value to our nation and to the communities where we live, work and serve,” he said.
Commitment to the Army Reserve
Talley told the subcommittee the decision to place the majority of the Army’s combat support and combat service support capabilities in the Army’s reserves committed the nation, years ago, to maintaining the Army Reserve as an operational force.
“It did not, however, anticipate the increased requirements … that structural shift would generate for the Army Reserve in terms of resourcing,” he said. “The Army, as a service, integrates and synchronizes all services when sustained, unified land operations are required.”
But the service can only do so, he said, with the support of the Army Reserve, which has most of the Army’s critical technical capabilities, such as logistics, transportation, medicine, full-spectrum engineering and civil affairs.
Demands on Army Reserve
Talley said the Army Reserve is already embedded in every Army service component command and combatant command worldwide.
“This allows us to respond to any mission at home or abroad, and in many cases, with little notice,” he said.
The current annual demand signal from the Army, Talley said, is 27,000 soldiers to meet the combat or contingent missions each year.
“In many cases,” he said, “these troops and their units may be required to immediately deploy overseas, so they must be maintained at a higher level of readiness.”
“Although we have historically received additional resourcing,” Talley said, “the standard model … produces only a strategic force.”
This is insufficient to train, equip and maintain the Army Reserve as an operational force, he said. In the past, Talley said, readiness beyond the strategic level was purchased with overseas contingency dollars, but that flexibility no longer exists; therefore, base budgets must reflect funding consistent with mission requirements.
“Readiness must be balanced with modernization and strength which, again, require resourcing,” he said. “We face that dilemma today.”
Readiness and Uncertainties
Talley said sequestration –- a legislative provision that mandates the return of major government spending cuts in October unless Congress changes it -- and budget uncertainties have created a “requirements-resource mismatch,” threatening the Army Reserves’ ability to support the Army and the nation.
“Readiness is bought by lobbying one unit -- Peter -- to fix or pay for another unit – Paul,” he said. “This can’t be a sustainable business model.”
There are three areas of concern, Talley explained, which are essential to generating readiness.
The first, he said, is annual training and operational tempo accounts, which, if cut, will limit the force’s ability to conduct individual, leader and unit training.
“For example,” Talley said, “reductions in school funding leave the Army Reserve unable, this year, to pay for 8,000 training and 15,000 education seats, negatively affecting our morale, endangering promotions and pressuring retention, and increasing attrition.”
The second area, he said, is equipment and modernization. “Today, the Army Reserve comprises 20 percent of our total Army,” Talley said. “Yet our share of the Army’s equipping budget is less than three percent.”
The Army Reserve provides 92 percent of the total Army bulk petroleum assets, he said, but that unfortunately, much of that capacity has not been modernized, reducing interoperability within the force.
“Unchecked, the total Army and the joint force literally could run out of gas,” Talley said.
The general said the final area of concern is the reductions in full-time manning, which affect foundational requirements ranging from soldiers’ pay to training facilitation.
“Currently, the Army Reserve is filled only to 76 percent of our authorized requirements. That jeopardizes our ability to execute missions,” Talley said.
The Army Reserve, he said, is uniquely postured to support the nation, but can only maintain that capability when properly resourced. “To sustain our current readiness levels,” Talley said, “we need the committee’s continued support with funding for full-time manning, … training and equipment.
“With your help, we can stay twice the citizen, and ‘Army Strong,’” he said.