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America's Army In 2015

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Thursday, February 19, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

In the face of growing threats and a volatile security environment, the army – as a result of budget cuts and sequestration – is dramatically cutting back in personnel and modernization. To cope with these challenges the Army has developed five focus areas:

  1. Develop leaders of character to lead the Army through this time of transition. Younger officers will be in a tactical mode one minute and must be prepared to transition almost instantly to thinking strategically (it could be said that, given the tempo and complexity of operations we’ve seen, these leaders must often think tactically and strategically with virtual simultaneity).
  2. The Budget Control Act of 2011, the legislation that cut defense spending and created the mechanism we refer to as sequestration, is the single greatest danger to the well-being of the Army. According to the Army, in the aftermath of sequestration going into effect in 2013, readiness dropped precipitously in the Army with only 10% of brigade combat teams (BCTs) deemed fully ready. Since the relief from sequestration given by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA), readiness has increased to 31% of BCTs.
  3. Maintain balance in a fiscally constrained environment. To achieve readiness, force structure and modernization have taken big hits. The Army is heading from a high of about 566,000 soldiers five years ago to 490,000 by the end of this year, on its way to 450,00 by the end of FY17. If sequestration continues, it may drop to 420,000 by FY18. Both the National Guard and Army Reserve are also seeing end strength cuts (to 350,000 for the ARNG and 202,000 for the USAR) that could plunge a further 10% under continued sequestration. The Army has essentially given up on modernization – nothing is in the pipeline. Modernization has been mortgaged to achieve near term readiness.
  4. Build toward Force 2025 and beyond. The key to this is the new Army Operating Concept (AOC) the Army is transitioning to that suggests new ways of approaching doctrine, training, material, leader development, personnel and facilities.
  5. Preserve the All-Volunteer Force. While engaging in a responsible drawdown the Army is striving to maintain the trust of the soldier. It is doing this through a renewed focus on leadership at all levels – Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has called leader development his number-one priority. “We cease to be effective as an Army if we let that go,” Odierno has said. The Army is continuing to develop activities such as the Ready and Resilient Campaign and Soldier for Life.

The Army has gone from 45 BCTs in 2010 to 32 by the end of this year. The key reason for this decline is the growing cost of people. For FY16, 61% of the budget will be for personnel – military and civilian. Both the base funding and overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding are substantially down from 2012. In 2012 the base funding was $138B; it was down to $117B in 2014 (although the BBA provided $9B in additional funds ultimately). For FY16, the President has requested $127B, but this is subject to sequestration unless the law is changed.

Bottom line: The Army needs relief from sequestration. The Chief of Staff of the Army has said that at 450,000 soldiers we run high risks, but that at 420,000 he cannot execute the national security strategy. Congress must be urged to accept the President’s FY16 budget proposal for the Army -- $127 billion plus $20 billion in OCO funding.

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