McHugh: No Army Acquisition Program Will Be Unscathed

By Stew Magnuson

The Army does not have a list of top acquisition programs that it is protecting from the vagaries of the current budget crisis, John M. McHugh, the service's secretary said Oct. 21. Every program will be negatively affected if sequestration remains in place, and continuing resolutions are substituted for future budgets.

Asked what the top new equipment priorities were for the Army, McHugh said a next-generation combat vehicle, a replacement for the Humvee, aviation modernization and communications networks. But he stressed that all of these programs will be taking a hit if sequestration remains the law of the land.

"I find it difficult to envision any significant number of our developmental initiatives that won't be affected. Some very significantly. Some we will have to cancel," he told reporters at the Association of the United States Army annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Analysis is ongoing, and the Army was not prepared to make any announcements on closely watched programs such as the Ground Combat Vehicle, he said. He could say that 485 acquisition programs had been negatively affected by the budget shortfalls so far. Some programs will have to be "stretched out," he said, which will make them even more unaffordable as that pushes up the cost per unit.

"We really have very little choice," he added.

Further complicating matters was the recent government shutdown. Preliminary estimates show that the 16 days off for civilian workers cost the Army $150 million. However, he called that a "deceptive figure."

It doesn't assess the impact of delayed operations. About 60,000 soldiers had their training canceled, and then there is the loss of morale among the civilians who were already furloughed earlier in the year. It is going to take a long time to get back what was lost, he said.

Five hundred aviators lost the ability to train, and it will take about two and half years to recoup that lost time, he said.

"Functioning like this is just dysfunctional," Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, said at the same press conference. He decried the impact of the shutdown had, along with the furloughs last summer, on the civilian workforce. No one yet knows if the same employees will face a second round of temporary layoffs next year, he said.

"And the threat is still over our heads. What is going to happen in January?" he asked, referring to the next possible budget deadline Congress faces on Jan.15.

"We just need to get some predictability. Because we have had zero for a very long time," Odierno said.

The Army had to stop training the final six months of this year because of a lack of funding, Odierno said. The continuing resolution, combined with sequestration if that continues, will most likely sharply reduce the amount of training Army forces can conduct next year, he added.

"The worst case scenario is you ask me to deploy thousands of soldiers somewhere and we have not properly trained them because we simply don't have the dollars or money because of the way sequestration is played out," he said.

The goal was to set aside a certain amount of money to ensure a set number of forces were trained and combat ready, but not until June 2014, he said. That, too, has been slowed by the shutdown.

Currently, only two brigades stationed in the United States are combat ready, he added.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, DOD Policy, Procurement, Defense Department

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