FPI Hearing Wrap-Up: Budgetary Challenges Facing the U.S. Military

September 21, 2016

The Senate Armed Services Committee last week held an important hearing on the long-term budgetary challenges facing the military services.  The testimony from the heads of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force gave a sobering account of how constrained budgets are deleteriously affecting readiness.  Thursday morning, the committee will have an opportunity to revisit these issues when U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford appear before the panel.

The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) believes that the following quotations from last Thursday will be useful as the ongoing budgetary debate continues in Congress.

The Dangers of Sequestration

“Absent additional legislation, the sequestration caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 will return in FY18, forcing the Army to draw down end-strength even further, reduce funding for readiness, and increase the risk of sending under-trained and poorly equipped Soldiers into harm’s way.” – General Mark Milley, USA

“Your Navy thrives on long-term stability. When putting together shipbuilding plans, it's necessary to think in terms of decades. And while I know we're mostly here to talk about the current challenges, I feel I must say I was struck by the recent Congressional Budget Office report updating their long-term budget and economic outlook. In it they predict that within a decade, discretionary spending -- which includes defense -- will drop to the lowest levels in more than 50 years. It makes crystal clear that it is vital that we all dive in and get to work on this problem now for the security of our country.” – Admiral John Richardon, USN

“I believe we are now pushing risk and the long-term health of the force into the future. As an example, we submitted an unfunded priority list of approximately $2.6 billion, which is the largest we've ever submitted. The global security environment drives our requirements. And requirements equal commitments.” – General Robert Neller, USMC

“[P]ermanent relief from the Budget Control Act—with predictable funding—is absolutely critical to rebuilding Air Force capability, capacity, and readiness across our portfolios.  Global developments remind us that America’s Air Force must have the capability to engage anytime, anywhere, across the full spectrum of conflict—all while providing a reliable strategic nuclear deterrent.” – General David Goldfein, USAF

The Standoff Over the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget

“Threats to our Nation remain constant.  The Services have become all too accustomed to Continuing Resolutions (CR).  A short-term CR of three months or less is undesirable but manageable, but a longer duration CR dramatically increases risk to an already strained fiscal environment and disrupts predictability and our ability to properly plan and execute a budget and a 5-year program.” – General Robert Neller, USMC

“If we end up in a long term continuing resolution, this will be the eighth we've had to deal with. So just to give you a scale then, for what will happen to the United States Air Force if we go beyond three months into a long term CR, that will be about $1.3 billion less that's in the FY17 budget. Some immediate impacts, the KC46 will go from 15 to 12 aircraft. We'll be procuring munitions at the FY16 rates… [w]hich not only affects us -- all of us that are engaged in the campaign, but it also affects our coalition partners who are relying on us as well for preferred munitions.” – General David Goldfein, USAF

The State of the Army

“While the Army is reducing end-strength, we made a deliberate decision to prioritize readiness, reduce infrastructure maintenance, and decrease funding for modernization. These choices devote resources to today’s fight, but decrease investments for future modernization and infrastructure readiness, and emergent demands… In other words, we are mortgaging future readiness for current readiness.” – General Mark Milley, USA

“The risks comes if we have a conflict with a near peer, high end competitor. Those other contingencies that Secretary of Defense Carter and many others have talked about, with China, Russia, North Korea or Iran. Each of which is different, operational and tactically, which would require different levels of forces, types of forces, and methods of operation. But the bottom line is, with the size of the U.S. Army today, if one or more of those contingencies took place, I maintain, our risk would significantly increase, as I mentioned before. And if two of them happen at the same time, I think it's high risk for the nation.” – General Mark Milley, USA

“About a third of our Regular Army Brigade Combat Teams are currently ready for high-end combat against a nation state… Our goal is to have Regular Army Brigade Combat Teams achieve 60-66 percent full spectrum readiness, and I estimate that it will take the Army approximately four years to achieve that assuming no significant increase in demand and no sequestration levels of funding.” – General Mark Milley, USA

“The Army comprises 33% of the DoD force structure and sources 52% of DoD’s Combatant Command base demand for forces and 69% of emergent demand for forces. While the demand for Army units has been and is expected to remain high, we are reducing military end-strength.” – General Mark Milley, USA

The State of the Navy

“I remain deeply concerned about the gap between what the American people expect of their Navy now and for the foreseeable future, and the available resources to deliver on those expectations. Your Navy team has always and will always do everything that is asked of them, and every ship and aircraft being sent forward is fully prepared to conduct its mission. The strain on the depots, labs, shipyards, logisticians and others that allow us to maintain this standard – which we will not compromise – is substantial….For the Navy, the size of this gap is likely to grow as the nation’s strategic challenges increase in number and complexity, and as resources in both the short and longer term remain tight.” – Admiral John Richardon, USN

“Reduced funding levels are just one of aspect of the ‘triple whammy’ that the Navy faces.  Those cuts come at a time when continued mission demands result in high operational tempo, and there is persistent uncertainty about when budgets will be approved. The combination of these factors has resulted in Navy incurring substantial 'readiness debt,' just like carrying a debt on a credit card.” – Admiral John Richardson, USN

“We foresee future shortfalls in our Attack Submarines, Future Surface Combatants (including Destroyers and Frigates), in strike fighter aircraft, and in facilities. We are taking steps to mitigate all of those shortfalls as best we can.” – Admiral John Richardson, USN

“The effects of this high operational tempo manifest themselves through increased wear and tear on ships, aircraft, and people.  As we conduct much-needed repairs, the average amount of work needed for the 34 ships currently in private shipyards is exceeding our projections by 35 percent.  For aircraft, our planned maintenance in depot work periods for legacy F/A-18s is taking 345 days to return them to safe flying status, almost double the 180 days we had planned.  This results from extended operations and increased use of our systems, which causes material conditions to degrade faster than anticipated. Longer maintenance cycles have operational implications, and often have a cascading effect.” – Admiral John Richardson, USN

The State of the Marine Corps

“The Marine Corps will continue to prioritize the readiness of deployed and next-to-deploy units over non-deployed units.  Our deploying units are ready, while our non-deployed commands lack sufficient resources to meet the necessary personnel, training, and equipment readiness levels to respond today.” – General Robert Neller, USMC

“Since the formal conclusion of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, the Marine Corps, like the other military services, has not had the benefit of an ‘interwar’ period to reset and reconstitute our force.  Fifteen years of continuous combat have created a high operational tempo, adding significant stress on the force, specifically on our people, our equipment (particularly aviation) and our readiness. There has not been a post-war intermission to reset the force.” – General Robert Neller, USMC

“Today’s Marines (and Sailors) are deploying at a rate comparable to the height of our commitment during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (1:2 deployment-to-dwell) with an end strength of only 183,500.  The stress on our force will continue as we decrease to the currently-planned end strength of 182,000.  To mitigate our current operational tempo, return to a sustainable 1:3 deployment-to-dwell ratio, retain necessary combat capability, and grow future capabilities, the Marine Corps will need to be larger, as such our end strength needs to be revisited." – General Robert Neller, USMC

The State of the Air Force

“To put it simply, Defense Strategic Guidance places demands on the capability and capacity of the Air Force that consume its resources in today’s fight and exceed our capacity to address readiness requirements for a high-end fight against a near-peer adversary.  If Airmen are unprepared for all possible scenarios, it could take longer to get to combat, jeopardize our ability to win, and cost more lives.” – General David Goldfein, USAF

“Pilots who don't fly, maintainers who's don't maintain, controllers who don't control, will walk. And there's not enough money in the Treasury to keep them in if we don't need to give them the resources to be the best they can be. In my mind, readiness and morale are inexplicably linked. Where we have high readiness, we tend to have high moral because they're given the opportunities to compete. Where we have low readiness, we have our lowest morale.” – General David Goldfein, USAF

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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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