[UPDATED] WASHINGTON: Rarely have such pretty slides told such an ugly story. While Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno tries to talk up “The Force of Tomorrow,” Army briefing documents obtained today by Breaking Defense lay out the near-term impact of sequestration, the Continuing Resolution, and unresolved overseas contingency operations needs: an enormous $18 billion shortfall for the service that will be borne almost entirely by federal workers and military readiness.
[Click here for the latest on how Congress is struggling to stop the sequester and how funding shortfalls have forced the Navy to leave only one aircraft carrier on guard in the Persian Gulf “for the foreseeable future.”]
You can see the slides by clicking “download this document” (up and to the left) and read the detailed talking points here, but the highlights are harrowing enough:
Training: The Army will have money to fully train only a fraction of its total force: The 82nd Airborne’s Global Response Force paratrooper brigade, units in Korea, and troops headed for Afghanistan. Everyone else will cancel everything more elaborate than “squad-level training.”
That means the largest Army formations that practice together as a team will be eight-man squads. For comparison, even a football team gets to put 11 players on the field at a time – and as hard as you have to practice to win the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens didn’t have to rehearse how to coordinate the actions of thousands of players working as a unit while somebody was trying to kill them.
As a result, the documents say, “In 1st quarter [of] FY 2014 , 78% of non-deploying, non-forward deployed brigade combat teams (BCTs) are not ready for contingencies without significant preparation.”
Even individual training will suffer in some areas. Helicopter pilots won’t be able to fly enough to meet proficiency requirements. Cutbacks at flight schools will leave the Army short about 500 aircrew for its fleet of helicopters. Cancellation of other specialized courses will create a shortfall of about 4,000 military intelligence specialists.
Personnel: Soldiers’ salaries are exempt from sequestration cuts (although not their healthcare program), but the Army will have to put every single one of its 251,000 employees on unpaid leave for the legal maximum of 22 days. And even that may not be enough without congressional permission to “reprogram” money from one account to another, the detailed talking points state: “Without reprogramming authority, multiple commands at risk of not supporting payroll even after 22-day furlough.”
Equipment: The massive effort to ship equipment home from Afghanistan, refurnish it, and return it to combat units will grind to a halt. Shutdowns at Army depots alone will stop work on 1,300 trucks, 14,000 radios, and 17,000 weapons of various types. The ripple effects may delay needed equipment getting to some units by “3-4 years.” That’s right, three to four years.
Business: With cuts to “every Army procurement program,” contracts must be renegotiated and efficiencies of scale will be lost. While total spending on each program will fall, the cost per each weapon, vehicle, or piece of kit acquired will rise: Spending cuts of about 8.8 percent will reduce quantities acquired 10-15 percent. As a result, the documents say, “21 of 26 Army major acquisition (ACAT 1) programs potentially incur significant Nunn-McCurdy breaches.” (The Nunn-McCurdy Act requires the Pentagon to report to Congress when a program’s cost overruns rise substantially).
Reduced purchases of spare parts and supplies will affect approximately 3,000 companies deemed “critical to Army materiel readiness,” the documents say. A third of those companies are considered “at risk” for bankruptcy, 366 of them “high risk.”
All told, the Army will lose 90 percent of the “Operations & Maintenance, Army” (OMA) funds remaining for fiscal year 2013. As a result, one bullet point declares,” Army mortgages future readiness in FY13, and enters FY14 hollow” in a host of areas.
“The reason sequestration hits training so hard is that a 7% cut has to be fit into the last seven months of the year — on top of a continuing resolution that has already created a shortfall in operations accounts,” said Loren Thompson, a defense consultant, analyst, and Breaking Defense contributor. The best solution, of course, would be to turn off the automatic cuts known as sequestration and to pass a proper appropriations bill instead of extending the continuing resolution. But even granting the Army limited reprogramming authority to move money from one account to another could stem the bleeding in the near term.
The irony is the entire crisis is self-imposed: Congress and the White House could stop all this with the stroke of a pen – if they could agree on what to write. But with House Republicans rejecting the President’s proposal today, which includes additional tax revenue, as not a serious offer, the odds of a deal appear slim.
Last updated 10:00 am Feb. 6 with details on spending vs. quantity cuts; earlier updates added a link to Gen. Odierno’s Foreign Policy article, analysis from Loren Thompson, and an exact quotation from Army documents on the 78 percent figure.