WASHINGTON: The current fiscal crisis slams the entire military, keeping aircraft carriers in port and fighter pilots on the ground for lack of funds, but of all the services, said Pentagon comptroller Robert Hale today, “the Army has by far the worst problem.”

That’s because the Army faces a unique triple-barreled budget problem, known with grim humor as “6-6-6″ because each part takes $6 billion out of Army readiness accounts: the automatic cuts known as the sequester, which began March 1st; the Continuing Resolution now funding the government, which continues spending at 2012 levels without any flexibility to start new programs or even adjust existing ones; and the shortfall in wartime supplemental funding (called OCO, for Overseas Contingency Operations) caused by unexpectedly high costs in Afghanistan.

“The Navy and the Air Force are only hit with two out of the three; we’re the ones who are hit with three out of the three,” said the Army’s senior uniformed budgeteer, Lt. Gen. Joseph Martz. Martz, like Hale, spoke this morning at the Newseum to a conference organized by McAleese & Associates and Credit Suisse. [Click here for full coverage]

Congress is currently working to fix the most pressing problem, the arbitrary limits of the Continuing Resolution, by passing a defense appropriations bill. (Most other federal agencies will simply get an extension of the current CR to prevent a government shutdown on March 27th). Hope is not a strategy, Martz said — “everyone was hoping sequester wouldn’t happen” — but “we really have some hope” Congress will act.

“If they can come up with an appropriation, it will go a long way to helping us. It will not fully solve our problem,” Martz said. Since Army spending for operations and maintenance (O&M) went up from 2012 to 2013 while spending in other areas, such as new weapons, went down, O&M was hammered by the CR requirement to keep spending on autopilot at 2012 levels in every account; with a proper appropriation, the Army will have the legal authority to spend less where it needs less and more in O&M. That funding reshuffle will make up for the sequestration cuts. “[Fixing] the CR will pay for the sequester,” said Martz. “That kind of zeroes out.”

“But you’ve [still] got this emerging OCO requirement,” Martz went on.

And Congress doesn’t seem to be addressing the shortfall in war funding. Said Hale, “there’s nothing in either of the bills” so far — though he cautioned that his staff is still going over the Senate language made public late yesterday. So, Hale said, “we will have to look for other approaches. It just depends, frankly, on what happens with the Hill. If they pass [a defense] appropriations bill, I’ll assume we’ll look for reprogramming” — i.e. authority to transfer money from one account to another, on a small scale and with Congressional approval. But the reprogramming relief-valve has strict legal limits, Hale warned.

“Houston, we have a problem,” Hale said.

“The holes we’re uncovering,” said Martz, “they’re just damn depressing, there’s no good news.”

The Army has preserved full funding for forces in Afghanistan and South Korea and for those units next in line to deploy. The other 78 percent of the Army is having to cancel most training. But an Army brigade only stays in the warzone for nine months — which may well be extended — so some of the units that can’t train now will be needed to go to Afghanistan in 2014. “We have to start making decisions [by] next month on the guys who are going to be there next year,” Martz said.

“You can’t just look at ’13 as a discrete event,” Martz went on. “Everything that gets moved out of ’13 gets moved into ’14…. You start to create this bow wave of problems. And compounding the knock-on effect from the 2013 cuts is that sequestration is just the first year of a 10-year, half-trillion-dollar cut across the Department of Defense. “The potential to be sequestered for the next nine years exists,” said Martz.

The force won’t return to the “Hollow Army” days of the 1970s in terms of its people or its equipment, Martz said. As manpower declines, the Army has pledged to dissolve brigades rather than leave them on the books but cripplingly undermanned, as they were after Vietnam — although sequestration may require it to cut 180,000 personnel instead of 80,000 by 2017. Vehicles and weapons are being “reset” and refurbished as they come out of Afghanistan, so the current hardware is pretty healthy.

Going forward, Martz said, the Army is able to protect its programs to upgrade command-and-control networks upgrades and develop a new Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) as well: “The network, GCV, these are the top priorities for our Secretary and Chief,” he said. “So far they’ve been protected in ’13 and ’14 and fully negotiated with Under Sec. [Frank] Kendall,” the Pentagon’s acquisition chief.

Both GCV and the network — really a package of programs from the WIN-T command system to handheld radios to IT upgrades at Army bases — have “undergone an enormous amount of scrutiny” from top levels in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, added Maj. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, director of program analysis and evaluation for the Army staff. In contrast to overly ambitious programs of the past (e.g. the Future Combat Systems), he said “they have been necked down and made very executable.”

With the service about to roll out a new “Army Equipment Modernization Strategy” for the age of austerity, “we have become very disciplined in our look at the long-term implications of procurement decisions,” Spoehr said. “We think it’s reasonable what we’re proposing in light of the current fiscal forecast even as far out as 2030″ — assuming, he admitted, that sequestration doesn’t go into full effect, with a half-trillion cut to defense spending over the next 10 years.

That’s hardly a safe assumption for Army planning, said Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, aka ASA(ALT). “It would be awfully naive of me to think the cuts are only one time,” Shyu said. What’s more, while the current Continuing Resolution and the first year (2013) of sequestration cuts apply to every program according to automatic formulae — whose combined effect actually (and inadvertently) protects weapons programs at the price of operations and maintenance — budgeteers will have leeway to raid modernization funds in 2014 and after. “Once you give us some leeway, I’m the target that people will come after because i am the acquisition piece,” Shyu said.

That’s next year’s nightmare, however. In the near term, both the Army’s people and its equipment are weathering the storm. The urgent problem, said Martz , is training funds: “This Army will be hollow in readiness.”

Updated 6:10 pm with Hedi Shyu’s comments.

Comments

  • JimBobJoe

    I just hope we don’t take the guys that just served in Afghanistan & Iraq and toss them out onto the streets without a job after what they just did for their country.

    • http://www.facebook.com/judi.mclaughlin.5 Judi Mclaughlin

      They do that now so what’s the difference? It’s always the low man on the totem pole that gets hit the hardest. God forbid if they started at the top with politician’s pay.

  • Guest

    Why should our heroes have to suffer because of political obstinancy?
    Let’s work together as Americans and get it done!

    http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces/resources

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.groves.5 James Groves

    It’s extremely sad to see these cuts come into play in it’s various forms as I perform my day to day duties.

    USASOC has, for the month of March, implemented a “mother may I?” policy, where every expenditure has to be justified to the Commander and approved. Training has been cancelled for the month of March, and other training pushed to the right. We can’t order printer cartridges for our printers, but luckily someone in charge with common sense has banned printing hard copies of briefs we give to the Commander, which easily amounts to 60 slides with 4 black and white copies per brief every two weeks, for ONE brief.

    DODDS schools have cut a day from their weeks. So while children who go to public school outside base still go to 5-day a week classes, on-post schools have gone to 4-day school weeks. Are military children all of a sudden less important than others? What about working parents who need to go to work and they have a kid who has a day off? They’re cutting CDC hours too, so childcare is more limited.

    A clinic worker has told me they’re cutting 8 hours, one work day, a week from their pay, and our access to healthcare. Seeing the amount of people that are seen every day in any clinic on a military base, you don’t have enough access to healthcare. And for the workers who depend on a 40-hour workweek, now you’re possibly jeopardizing their way of life by cutting their hours. And when DOD civilians start missing bills and mortgage payments due to shortage of funds, are you going to tell them that they should be paying their mortgage instead of buying groceries? Whose to blame?

    Commissaries are cutting one day off their weeks, too. Considering 51% of patrons of the commissary are retirees, according to a recent poll I cannot recall, you’re affecting those retirees too, who may depend on the prices offered by DECA to sustain their lifestyle. With increasing medical costs, what does this ultimately amount to?

    There’s a lot more at stake than losing the GCV program and future acquisitions. The Army is based upon Manpower, and when the Army’s manpower loses readiness, through training, upkeep of it’s personnel (healthcare/ Army Family Covenant/ etc.), does this project the right picture of our priorities?

    I don’t think so. I refuse to take the answer that “this is how it is” as a definitive method for accepting these cuts. Our leaders in Congress need to figure something out, I see a lot of small bills being voted on weekly by our Congress, I’m sure some change can be affected if they put that on hold and put bigger issues on the table, like this.

    • EnBloc

      It is my thesis that our entire military posture and structure is at risk as the United States undergoes continual industrial contraction and the requisite undercut of tax base and technical innovation. It won’t be long until we begin sourcing major military systems from overseas. Let Detroit and the auto industry be your guide – if not ship building and the steel industry.

  • justright

    There is no good reason for the US to spend more on defense than the next 10 largest countries combined. NONE. If they cut the disasterous spending on ineffective systems, there would be more than enough for the servicemen and veterans. Prioritize….thats what the rest of us have to do. Most of us don’t get to buy every fking shiny new toy….

    • http://www.facebook.com/enrique.w.iglesias Enrique W.v. Iglesias

      Also, please tell me why we need to spend $500 Billion on the F-35; and then another $1.6 Trillion, in Spares, Training and Modification, did the Terrorists start an Air Force somewhere; and then tell me why the Army is spending $1.3 Billion on Landing Assualt Craft (not the Marines the Army) where in the Middle East are the Beaches for Landing these craft..??? Give me one month in the Pentagon and we’ll have a balanced budget…

      • aol

        Marines are part of the Navy, dummy!

      • http://www.facebook.com/james.groves.5 James Groves

        Addressing @justright first. I disagree with the assumption that there is no GOOD reason to spend what you say is the equivalent of the next 10 countries combined. Jumping backwards, when they called us the War Department, there was no question as to what our purpose was. With the politically correct name of Department of Defense, it gets convoluted as to what “defense” means. The point of developing weapons such as the XM25, bullets that automatically correct themselves in flight, the F-35, and many other projects is so that we shouldn’t HAVE to use them. Similar to the A-bomb, Essentially the DoD is a mechanism for maintaining peace, but when the doodoo hits the fan, the DoD is the mechanism to take care of it. I AGREE that they need to cut spending on INEFFECTIVE systems. One example would be the Future Land Warrior project, a system extremely expensive to maintain. Looking at upwards of five or six components that require batteries, and one for every soldier on the ground, how much in batteries alone does it cost to sustain? There’s some good spending, like renovating extremely dated post housing, the new magazines (tan feeders), the F-22, but for every ‘good dollar’ there’s more ‘bad’ dollars. And again, ‘prioritize’ is something we SHOULD do, but as of now CAN’T do, we can’t shuffle funds to where it’s NEEDED, the CR and sequester prevent that right now, which is why we NEED a defense budget to be passed to ALLOW us to do so….

        For Enrique. at this point might as well finish the F-35. If you’re going to spend that much on an aircraft might as well get what you contracted for. It also performs better than advertised on “regular” news sources, who like to claim it’s not working. Dumping the F-35 now is like doing 18 years and getting out without retiring at 20. Just finish it out. And terrorists have not started an air force, but many of our non-friendly countries have air forces, and when their own tech is maybe a generation behind, and in some cases just as good, and in special circumstances better, you WANT to have planes that are a generation ahead. Like my above reference, you don’t WANT to have to use them, but when it’s time to do so, it shortens wars and saves lives (on our end at least..). I don’t follow AOL Defense much, or as many defense issues as some, but I’m unaware of the Landing craft for the Army you speak of, no comment. I’m not an all-knowing kind of guy, but it just seems to me that you’re unfamiliar with DoD functions and just playing off what you’ve heard.

  • keith

    this spending adjustment is very poorly handled, in large the us military is well funded but forced to the stretch the dollars too far and change in financial support comes far too abruptly. They want this huge force ‘on safari’ and tell the army to grow 20% for big deployments then cut funding 40+% before the war is even over when defense is only a minority percentage of the total budget anyway. The money for robust well balanced defense is being spent, but political policy is erratic and forces countless billions into nonstrategic spending through a continuous act and react pattern. I think we would could have a lot more bang for our bucks if the legislature would just smooth out the changes in the policies and move the currently spent funds a few percentage points! I want the heavy armor divisions, fully upgraded F-22 s and nuclear powered Zumwalt destroyers this country deserves for the money being spent. politicians have way too much say in how the military spends its money, congressmen aren’t brilliant generals and often partisan political motives run deep in the asinine decisions that can be seen on C-SPAN whenever military budget decisions are made.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paula.stahlman Paula Vidotto Stahlman

    Shouldn’t the pain be spread around rather than picking on the military, how about pay cuts for Congress, how about Obama and his family stays home and take less vacations.

    • Juana

      The “President” and I use that noun loosely gave orders to only take cuts where they hurt so that he could make his point!!! 2% cuts across the board would have done away with waste but that is not what he wanted!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/james.groves.5 James Groves

        But sadly instead organizations are getting up to 38% reductions in funding

  • Dennis The Menance

    they can come up with an appropriation, it will go a long way to helping us..
    Why not just say THE MONEY!
    We Over pay the Auto Makers and Airplane Co.’s to Also Make Our Military, right?
    And Notice how It’s Cost us Double ever since No More DRAFT?
    >SB those that Don’t Serve and our Corporations Should be paying a MST..Military Support Tax ..Just 1% is all that is Needed..
    It’s what other Countries Have done for Decades.. and it works just fine
    You Really want to Support the Troops? This is how you Prove it!

  • Elroy_Jetson

    I’m calling shenanigans. (Actually, I’m saying BS.) The Navy is spending billions on new ships that may or may not float. The Air Force is spending billions on aircraft that may or may not fly. Seems it’s just not as important to our Military commanders to spend money on personnel. It’s a real shame that they will have all these new toys for all branches, and yet no one to operate them, or from them. It’s not sequestration, It’s spending choices.

  • Joseph Fusco

    The military does not guarantee you a job when you are released. Only if you had a job before joining then you are guaranteed your job back. Evey one must share in the pain of bugdet cuts.

  • Bill Morgan

    Do we need a huge Army in Europe???Do we need the F-35????Do we need Carrier Groups everywhere???Does the Army need more Abrams tanks and fighting vehicles (Maybe they could get some out of the American dessert where they are currently stored) Does the Navy need a huge mothballed fleet of ships full of asbestos that must be maintained but obviously will never be used again????

    • aol

      maybe they can just use rocks and sling shots. A good part of the mid east is controlled by radical muslims who want us dead. Yes, now is a good time to cut our armed forces. Why not just invite our emnemies over for dinner and hand them our country for desert?

  • Kaliko

    All of our congressman shouldn’t get paid a cent until they can solve their differences. If that was the case, then there wouldn’t be any sequester.

  • ycplum

    What is the point of having a Marine Corp if they don’t get shafted with the budget short straw?
    jkg : P

  • Brenda

    And yet we spend BILLIONS to send people who hate us tanks and fighter jets??? ANd people still think Obama ISNT a muslim out to destroy this nation??? Okkkkaaaayyyy……

  • aol

    How dare the administration cripple our armed forces? No training? Keeping ships in port? I know the administration wants to cripple our military but this is rediculous. First of all, the sequestration merely cut the amount of the increased spending that occurs automatically every year. Actual spending levels are still higher this year over last year. The president threatend us with big hurt if he did not get his way. Now he is putting American lives in jeaordy because of his tantrum. This is unAmerican. He must be held accountable.

  • talltrees

    would someone get rid of obama pleazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

  • talltrees

    i agree Paula!

  • blinn8656

    The legaslative branch needs the biggest cuts. They have the most perks and do less than all of government combined. Make them earn their money or give them performance evaluations and pay based on performance.

  • Rich Arant

    John thinks others are out of touch?