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Army warns of deeper cuts in troop numbers

By Richard Lardner

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:32 a.m. HST, Apr 23, 2013

Army soldiers ran out of a helicopter after landing at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows during training exercises last week. Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team from Schofield practiced air assault via helicopter at Bellows and moving through a mock Afghan village as they prepare for a deployment to Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON » Senior Army officials warned today they may have to cut more than 100,000 additional soldiers over the next decade unless automatic spending reductions forcing the military services to slash their budgets are stopped.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Secretary John McHugh said the losses would undermine the service's ability to be prepared for wartime missions. "Today we find our Army at a dangerous crossroads," McHugh said.

The Army has already planned to trim its ranks from a wartime footing of 570,000 soldiers to 490,000 due to previously planned budget reductions approved by Congress in 2011, according to McHugh said. But if the automatic cuts, known as sequestration, are extended into future years, tens of thousands more soldiers, including members of the Army National Guard and Reserve, will have to be let go due to a lack of money, he said.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the budget cuts could threaten readiness levels on the Korean peninsula, where military forces remain on high alert after North Korea threatened to attack the United States and South Korea. Sequestration has forced the cancellation of a series of training exercises intended to help prepare soldiers for possible combat there, he said.

Odierno also said the cut of 100,000 additional troops is a minimum number if sequestration is allowed to continue.

"The cuts are simply too steep," he said.

Sequestration went into effect March 1. Overall, the Defense Department is required to cut nearly $42 billion by the end of September. If no action is taken to reverse sequestration, the mandated cuts will extend into future years. The Army's share of the automatic cuts over the next six months is $7.6 billion. In addition to sequestration, the military also has to absorb a $487 billion reduction in defense spending over the next 10 years mandated by the Budget Control Act passed in 2011.

Fewer soldiers won't translate into cost savings because the departing troops will have to be paid separation benefits, Odierno said. The longer the automatic cuts last, the prospect of using involuntary separations becomes greater, Odierno said.

During an exchange with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Odierno said the Army is heading toward becoming "hollow," a term used to describe a force that looks good on paper but lacks adequately trained troops and modern equipment.

"If we cut another 100,000 out, we put into question our ability to respond to large scale contingencies," Odierno said.

Two week furloughs for as many as 250,000 Army civilian employees will generate enough savings in the 2013 budget to ensure that deployments for soldiers serving in Afghanistan won't have to be extended, Odierno said. The decision to go forward with the furloughs as a difficult one, he said.

As many as 700,000 civilian employees at the Defense Department will be furloughed for as long as 14 work days beginning in June, eight fewer days than originally anticipated after Congress gave military officials greater flexibility to apportion automatic budget cuts driving the layoffs.

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Changalang wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on April 23,2013 | 05:53AM
aunty wrote:
you are so wrong. we need separation of politics and military. cut back the number of politicians first (all their perks and staff too)
on April 23,2013 | 06:13AM
Changalang wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on April 23,2013 | 08:50AM
koolau wrote:
To a degree, you're correct. However, your theory would be tested should North Korea with its 1.2 million troops decide to behave badly. Your comment about military wives is uncalled for. Hiring military wives into any meanngful job is a lost training and experience investment by employers when their husbands are transferred. Your analogy of "slimmer" wives is in poor taste. Many endure the loneliness, and taking care of their family by themselves when they're spouses are deployed. You should stick with your military strategic analysis and leave the spouses alone.
on April 23,2013 | 10:12AM
false wrote:
No excuse for fat "porkies" anywhere, especially in the military.
on April 23,2013 | 11:10AM
Charliegrunt wrote:
Somebody needs to tell BO to quit strutting around a banty rooster and making threats. Before all these cuts, Army and Marine Corps were being run into the ground with combat rotations every year to seven months. There was already so much strain on the troops and their families that they were getting out in droves. It's sad to see politicians who have never served even one day during peace time doing that to those who have the patriotism to fight for their country. Some will say because employment was down. Think about that. Would you put your butt on the target line every seven months or a year just for a job?
on April 23,2013 | 06:23AM
Lanikaula wrote:
EVERYTIME there is an economic crisis the deepest cuts are to the most important resource: PEOPLE! It doesn't matter that THEY are the ones who will be at the front lines fighting the CORPORATES battles, or they are the ones producing the products that stack up high in huge warehouses, or come to the aid in disasters be it man-made or nature...the PEOPLE get cut first! These poor, young men made into enforcers...soldiers for the RICH. Wen dey pau fighting the corporate wars come home w/limbs missing, scarred for life w/psychological hang-ups fighting patriotically to a reception whereby their families are devastated forever. And what's waiting for them? NOTHING, but 'crumb$$' as it's more important that we $pend & build stockpiles of WMD then take care of them...TSAAAH america you still haven't taken care of veterans as you should from Vietnam and you're out there in the world 'acting' like you're THE protectorate for peace and security of the world!!! MALAMA KOU PO'E!
on April 23,2013 | 06:29AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Cut some of the perks for military before cutting troops.
on April 23,2013 | 06:31AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Since the Republican won't allow the rich to pay their fair share of taxes. We won't have the money to operate America very soon.
on April 23,2013 | 07:18AM
realist3463 wrote:
Just what is a 'fair share' in your mind? My guess is you will not be happy until you spend all of someone elses money on giveaway programs. Unless and until we grow the economy, there will not be enough money to fund all your welfare programs. I do not expect there are many examples of folks on welfare growing the economy.
on April 23,2013 | 08:27AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Freedom is not free.
on April 23,2013 | 07:18AM
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