Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Secretary of the Army John McHugh leave the stage following a press conference today at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C. (Mike Morones/Staff)
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WASHINGTON — A visibly frustrated chief of staff and secretary of the US Army today warned that many key programs will have to be canceled, curtailed or delayed in upcoming years due to budget uncertainty, and units will be unready to perform operations.
“All segments of the Army are going to be touched” by sequestration and the inability of Congress and the White House to agree on a budget for the federal government, Secretary John McHugh said.
McHugh also pointedly took issue with how the Army’s decreasing budgets have been reported in the press, complaining that some reporters portray future Army budgets as merely being a reversal to peacetime 2002 or 2003-era budgets.
“This isn’t 2002. Or 2003,” he said during a late morning press conference. “The costs we pay for things have gone up significantly. … Obviously the needs of our soldiers and our families are much more extensive” now than they were a decade ago, before tens of thousands of soldiers were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno also complained that his two-year tour as head of the service has “been nothing but budget uncertainty. No budgets, continuing resolutions, no planning, wasteful programs because we can’t predict what budgets we’re going to have as we move forward.”
The chief was also angry that thousands of Army civilians have been furloughed, and then were temporarily put out of work earlier this month when the government shut down. “And the threat’s still hanging over their heads,” he said, since the continuing resolution finally agreed to will come up again for debate in January.
“What’s going to happen in January, nobody knows,” he warned.
McHugh said that one of the biggest problems Army leadership faces right now is “to not have predictability. To not know if the Army is going to have money in the right account or is going to have legal authority to execute a contract is not just problematic, it can be crippling.”
The seemingly endless series of continuing resolutions also means that the Army, which has received tens of billions of dollars in supplemental war-fighting funds over the past several years, is having trouble moving some of those funds back into the base budget.
The two leaders didn’t pull any punches during their press opportunity, but McHugh delivered one of the harder body blows in his comments about the future of multiple procurement programs.
“I find it difficult to envision any significant number of our initiatives that won’t be affected, some very significantly,” by sequester and the continuing resolutions, he said.
“Some we will have to cancel, some we will have to reprioritize … others will have their schedules stretched out, which presents problems of cost, and cost per unit, and possible Nunn McCurdy breaches and on and on and on, but we really have very little choice.”