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Top Army leaders showed little restraint as they blasted the many ways the budget debacle is crippling the service.
And the problems are many.
■ Only two brigades are combat-ready. Even units headed to Afghanistan are qualified for the train-and-advise mission, not combat.
■ Budget cuts will cut the Army to 420,000 troops, and some are calling for a force of 380,000. End strength topped out at 570,000 and is being cut to 490,000.
■ A number of lawmakers and analysts have minimized the need for land forces, an attitude Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno called “naïve” and “dangerous.”
■ Continuing resolutions, combined with the crippling effect of sequestration, have had a negative impact on 485 programs and put each one in jeopardy of being reduced or eliminated.
■ Cuts have delayed reset for 22 aviation units. As a result, 744 aircraft (three years’ worth) are in a holding pattern.
■ Some 139,000 health care appointments were not available in fiscal 2013 as a result of sequestration and the government shutdown.
■Nearly 10 percent of the Army’s civilian medical doctors, nurses and other health workers — or 4,120 civilian health employees — left their jobs in the months that furloughs were threatened or carried out. Of those, 728 were doctors or nurses.
“I wish I could promise that better days lie ahead,” said Army Secretary John McHugh. “Sadly, I just can’t.”
McHugh’s pointed comments opened the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting Oct. 21.
He and several other Army leaders spoke at the AUSA event about the challenges now and what lies ahead.
Here is an overview:
Troops: How low is too low?
Readiness: Fears of ‘too little, too late’
Training: ‘Not to full capability’
Gear: ‘Tough decisions’ await
Benefits: Slowing compensation, shifting care
Odierno: Land power is still vital
Lance M. Bacon, Michelle Tan, Joe Gould and Paul McLeary contributed to this report.