Enlisted Soldiers and the Sequestor
One Woman’s Opinion
By – Sheri de Grom
I haven’t often agreed with former Secretary of the Defense, Leon Panetta. But I do find myself agreeing more and more with his assessment of our Armed Services becoming a second-rate world power as sequester takes its angry bites from budgets that have taken countless hits from Congress year-after-year.
Presently, the Army alone must find $7.6 billion in savings in the next six months. On top of that, the Army is short an additional $7.8 billion in its Afghanistan wartime account because of higher-than-expected operating costs. The Commanders have said the money necessary to fight the war until September 31, 2013, will come from training and salary budgets.
The Army has already begun trimming its forces by 70,000 plus and another round of forced retirements are expected this summer. With sequestration in place, the Army will have to cut a minimum of another 100,000 soldiers beyond the reduction it already has planned.
General Ray Odiemo, Chief of Staff of the Army, told Congress the full weight of sequester will fall on the modernization and readiness accounts, where such drastic cuts will take years to overcome.
General John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, said the Army has had to make damaging cutbacks in readiness in 2013. Included in his remarks to Congress, “ . . . eighty percent of Army units will see degraded levels of training this year.”
The Secretary of the Army also addressed the necessity to fight to keep the civilian work force in place. He acknowledged, “U.S. Army civilians are critical to the mission in Afghanistan and there are 50,000 who could walk out the door immediately with full retirement benefits. Another 25,000 Army civilians are eligible for early retirement benefits.”
General McHough continued, “The Department of Defense civilians have faced frozen pay increases for three years and now will have fourteen-day furloughs before the end of September, 1913, to meet budget requirements. (Now reduced to eleven-days). We need to give them a reason to want to stay.”
Political gridlock is gutting the Army. Who will be responsible when there’s no one trained to defend theUnited States? When all the military bases are empty, will we be a richer nation?