The U.S. Army's deputy chief of staff for programs said automatic budget cuts known as sequestration are here to stay.
"We don't see an end in sight," Lt. Gen. James Barclay said during the second day of the Association of the United States Army conference. "We're going to have some tough times."
Army Secretary John McHugh yesterday said he has directed his staff to prepare two budgets for fiscal 2015; one that assumes the automatic, across-the-board spending reductions remain in effect and one that doesn't.
The Army is accelerating its plans to shrink from about 520,000 active-duty soldiers today to about 490,000 from 2017 to 2015, Barclay said. That figure may drop to 380,000 if sequestration remains in effect, Pentagon officials have said.
Because the service can't afford to shed 50,000 to 70,000 soldiers in a year, it will have to look for reductions in other areas of the budget, namely modernization and readiness, Barclay told a roomful of mostly company representatives.
The Army's top weapons buyer, Heidi Shyu, said the service will continue to better integrate missile defense systems and to upgrade aging weapons systems, such as the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or AMPV, designed to replace the 1960s-era M113 armored personnel carrier, and the M109 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, designed to replace earlier versions of the 155mm howitzer.
Shyu also said the Army will seek to get better deals by pursuing multi-year contracts and to protect funding for science and technology to develop systems for future missions likely to occur in contested airspace.
Noticeably missing from her remarks was any reference to big-ticket acquisition programs such as the Ground Combat Vehicle, designed to replace the Bradley fighting vehicle; the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, designed to replace a portion of the Humvee fleet; and a battlefield communications network known as the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T.
Shyu also responded to a comment from Kevin Gates, a staff member of the House Armed Services Committee, headed by Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., suggesting that the Army and other services have been slow to adopt newer technology because of cumbersome acquisition regulations and directives.
The regulatory responsibility "that's imposed upon acquisition is not exactly our own making," Shyu said.
A longtime executive in the private sector, including Raytheon Co., Shyu said she was shocked when she entered government and learned how little control program managers have over the acquisition process.
"The PM is the flea on the tail of this dog," she quipped, to applause from the crowd.