NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (Army News Service, July 10, 2013) – Speaking before 500 service spouses and educators, July 8, the Army’s vice chief of staff didn’t pull any punches about the negative impact continued sequestration could have on military programs for children.
During a presentation at the Military Child Education Coalition’s 15th national training seminar here, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell made clear that fiscal woes facing the country and the Army as it transitions out of Afghanistan and changes into a leaner force structure will also mean leaner funding for programs.
“I used to say that everything in Afghanistan was hard, but this is really hard and has to do with sequestration; it has to do with budget; it has to do with downsizing,” Campbell said.
The general said that what is happening now is not new, however. He pointed out that the conclusion of every major conflict has also involved a downsizing of military forces.
Two weeks ago the Army announced just such a cut. The number of active brigade combat teams, known as BCTs, in the Army will be reduced from 45 to 33. Army leaders also said at the time they expected to eventually name an additional brigade to be eliminated. It’s expected that eventually, a total of 13 BCTs would be eliminated — many Soldiers in those brigades would move into other brigades.
Those moves are in response to force cuts put forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011. That act mandated an Army reduction in end strength of 80,000 Soldiers. That reduction will reduce the force to 490,000 Soldiers by 2017. The reduction does not take into consideration any additional cuts that might need to be made as a result of sequestration.
Campbell said that if sequestration continues, the Army would have to continue downsizing — possibly by an additional 100,000 Soldiers from the active, Army National Guard and Army Reserve forces.
“[Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno] are committed to making sure that the critical family programs, and the programs that have the most impact on our children will continue to be funded at the levels they are now,” Campbell said.
Campbell also said the Army’s chief of staff is determined to keep the school liaison officers program at the same funding levels currently in effect, though the Army doesn’t yet know if its fiscal year 2014 budget request will be fully funded.
Campbell said the Army’s goal is to make sure programs that “benefit our children most, and that give us the biggest bang for the buck” are able to continue.
“But we shouldn’t fool ourselves,” he said. “It’s not going to be the way it was the last 10 years — our nation cannot afford it.”
The vice chief also explained that money for many Army programs came as part of funding tied to fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — funding known as the “overseas contingency operations,” or OCO, budget. Now that the Army is out of Iraq, and moving ahead with pulling out of Afghanistan, OCO funding for those conflicts will diminish.
“We had different programs that came on board because we could, and in most cases it was for the right reasons,” Campbell said. “What we’re doing now is taking a look at all these programs and making sure we’re not redundant where we don’t have to be.”
Campbell said the Army would try to do the best it could with the budget it gets.
“The bottom line is, the programs that we have we’re taking a very hard look at and making sure we pick the right programs that impact the most people — but that will be different at each post, camp or station,” he said. “So we’re going to power down and depend upon the senior mission and division commanders to provide us that input.”
Campbell said audience members, upon returning to their home stations, could serve as advocates to their commanders for programs that work, and could also draw attention to those programs that do not work.