WASHINGTON – The U.S. military is consuming readiness as fast as it can generate it, and this leaves America vulnerable, uniformed leaders told the House Armed Services Readiness subcommittee March 26.
Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, the Army vice chief of staff; Adm. Michelle J. Howard, the vice chief of naval operations; Gen. Larry O. Spencer, Air Force vice chief of staff, and Marine Corps Gen. John M. Paxton Jr., the assistant commandant, told the subcommittee that even under the president’s proposed fiscal year 2016 budget, readiness is at the ragged edge.
“We are not building surge capacity, we are not building a continuous response capability,” Allyn said during his testimony.
Troops will have the training, equipment and leadership needed to do their missions, but long-term readiness remains a problem, the leaders said. And, they added, if Congress allows the Budget Control Act of 2011 to stand, triggering sequestration Oct. 1, even today’s readiness would be endangered.
Army Readiness ‘Strained’
The Army is consuming readiness as rapidly as the service can generate it, Allyn said, which means “that our ability to respond to the unknown contingencies, to reinforce either the major fight or the deterrence fight is significantly strained.”
Sequestration budget cuts would have real consequences, the general said, offering the prospect of responding to two contingency missions as an example.
“It [would mean] we're late to the fight in one or both locations with sufficient capacity, Allyn said, “and we either fail in our mission or we increase the loss of life to those committed forward from the joint force, as well as innocent civilians that we are charged to protect in accordance with our national security interests.”
Navy Readiness ‘Still in Reset’
The Navy is still struggling to catch up to readiness challenges imposed when sequestration kicked in in fiscal year 2013, Howard told the committee.
“With this particular budget, we are still in reset, taking those ships through drydockings, through overhauls, all the way up through fiscal year ’18 for our carrier strike groups,” she said. “And then we don’t reset and recover the maintenance on our amphibious ships until fiscal year ’20.”
Marine Corps Faces Degraded Readiness
Like the Army, the Marine Corps is facing readiness issues in meeting today’s deployments, Paxton said.
“The challenge is that the next to deploy will be in a degraded state of readiness,” he said. “Right now we have over 50 percent of our home station units in what we call degraded readiness, C3 or C4. They don’t have their proper equipment, they don’t have the right skilled leadership at the small-unit level, they don’t have the right training opportunities."
Air Force Operations Tempo Hurts Proficiency
The Air Force is seeing huge readiness challenges, Spencer said.
“We have the smallest and oldest Air Force in history, we need all of our airmen to be proficient in every aspect of their mission,” he said. “Unfortunately, our high-operations tempo has caused our airmen to only be proficient in the jobs they do when they deploy. We simply do not have the time and resources to train airmen across the full spectrum of Air Force missions.”