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Where Force Readiness Meets Fiscal Austerity

The 2014 Army Posture Statement, written by Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Chief of Staff of the Army General Raymond T. Odierno, has been released to Congress in concurrence with the annual posture hearings. These hearings began on Tuesday, with McHugh and Odierno testifying before Congress on the Army’s vision for future operations, force strategy and budget priorities.

Summarizing the Army’s accomplishments, programs and missions, the document serves as a broad reference on the state and role of the Army. The 2014 Army Posture Statement highlights various plans and programs, and stresses the importance of responsible budget choices that will enable both fiscal responsibility and force readiness.

The focus of the document is wide-ranging, with sections outlining the Army’s budgetary reductions and strategic choices; leadership development; the service’s role as “globally responsive, regionally engaged strategic land forces”; readiness and training; soldiers, civilians and their families; and equipment modernization, process improvement and sustainment. Some of the key points from the document are detailed here.

Budget Readiness and Strategic Choices
Budget cuts have been a hot topic for quite some time now, and will likely continue to be so for some time into the future. The Army’s Posture Statement addresses the impact that fiscal uncertainty and budget cuts have had on mission planning, and notes that the 2013 Bipartisan Budget Act provides welcome, albeit temporary, stability. According to the statement, in order to meet the Army’s goal of “proper balance between end strength, readiness and modernization across the Total Army,” the service is in the process of reducing its end strength numbers. While the statement notes that the FY15 budget “provides a balanced and responsible way forward,” it also cautions that the threat of sequestration in FY16 would leave the force dangerously hollow.

Globally Responsive, Regionally Engaged Strategic Land Forces
One of the more comprehensive sections of the statement, this portion focuses on the unique capabilities of the Army as part of the joint force and their missions in serving at home and abroad. Discussing the role of soldiers in the joint force and their forward deployed presence, the statement reflects the upcoming shift in attention to the Asia-Pacific region.

Ensuring a Ready Army
This section on training and force structure states the Army’s intent to “reinvigorate” the Combat Training Centers (CTC) using comprehensive training programs mixing live, virtual and constructive methods. Funding cuts have impacted the number of brigade combat teams (BTC) able to conduct CTC rotations, having a detrimental effect on soldier proficiency. The statement also explains the reorganization of Army units for FYs 14 and 15, including a realignment of BCTs and restructuring of the aviation fleet.

Soldiers, Civilians and Families
According to the statement, one of the Army’s top priorities “must be the welfare, training and material resources we put toward maintaining the trust of our soldiers, civilians and their families.” There is an emphasis on various morale and welfare programs, including the Ready and Resilient Campaign, the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, and suicide prevention programs. Also addressed are the opening of additional positions to female soldiers, the plan for downsizing the Army civilian force, and changes in military compensation programs.

Equipment Modernization, Process Improvement and Sustainment
Budget reductions necessitate an especially careful modernization strategy, which the Army describes as “a mix of limiting the development of new capabilities, incrementally upgrading existing platforms and investing in key technologies to support future modernization efforts.” The short-term priorities for the service are reducing procurement, applying business efficiencies, and ending, restructuring or delaying multiple programs. Specific portfolios discussed in the statement include ground vehicles, aviation and the Army network.

Also important in the coming years are the return and repair of equipment from Afghanistan and the preservation of industrial base in order to fulfill maintenance and manufacturing capabilities. The statement also expresses the Army’s desire for another round of Base Realignment and Closure in 2017, and restates the service’s commitment to “establishing an energy informed culture” with efficiencies realized both at installations and in soldier systems. Finally, the Army aims to continue business transformation to make processes more effective and cost-efficient, with a goal of reducing business portfolio costs by 10 percent annually.

In closing, balance seems to be the ultimate goal for the Army, and fiscal certainty, if not fiscal plenty, is essential to meeting their mission requirements. “Our challenge is to reshape into a smaller, yet capable, force in the midst of sustained operational demand for Army forces and reduced budgets,” the statement reads. “Our ability to provide trained and ready Army forces will improve as we begin to balance readiness, end strength and modernization. However, if sequestration-level spending caps resume in FY 16, we will be forced to reduce end strength to levels that will not enable the Army to meet our nation’s strategic requirements.”

These priorities were reiterated during McHugh and Ordierno’s testimony on Tuesday, with McHugh telling Congress that “This is the time for protection and predictability, not politics.” As service leaders continue to testify before lawmakers and budgets are finalized, hopefully these words will be taken to heart. ♦

Last modified on Thursday, 27 March 2014 10:38
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