Odierno: Wages, Benefits to Overwhelm Army Budget

By Stew Magnuson

Compensation for those serving in the Army will nearly double over the next decade, which will in turn threaten the service’s modernization efforts, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said July 29.

“If we continue along the way that we are going now, we believe by 2023, 80 percent of our budget will be on compensation,” said Odierno during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

About 46 percent is spent on wages and benefits currently, he said.

“We have to have the right package of compensation that allows us to continue to move forward,” Odierno said. “The issue we’ve had though is the rate of compensation has grown too quickly. We don’t necessarily have to end some of our compensation, but we have to reduce our growth. We have to get it back in line with what is reasonable.”

If that already high number continues to escalate, the budget for research and development, as well as science and technology will shrink. This will then drastically affect the Army’s ability to modernize, he said.

A smaller budget with less compensation means fewer active duty personnel, he said.

Sequestration is throwing the service out of balance, he said. Downsizing the force is causing a shift from those receiving active duty pay to those receiving more costly retirement benefits.

There is also a concern that the lower number of men and women coming in will not be as well trained as those leaving.

“If I’m asked to deploy 20,000 soldiers somewhere, I’m not sure I can guarantee you that they’re trained to the level that I think they should be over the next two, three years, because of the way sequestration is being enacted,” said Odierno.

Odierno recently returned from a trip to India to meet with officials there.

“One thing we realized was how much we had in common,” he said, in reference to meeting his counterpart, Gen. Bikram Singh.

“What really caught me was the fact that what they’ve been doing for the last 20 years, is what we’ve been doing for the last 12 years — counter-insurgency,” he added.

Many of the Indian military’s junior officers have received training in the United States, which further strengthens bonds.

The Army plans to continue building relations with India as a part of its strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

India contributed greatly to the Korean War, which ended 60 years ago this week. And there are lessons there, Odierno said, bringing the discussion back to sequestration and the Army’s budget woes.

“We struggled when we first got into the fight in Korea. Why? Because we had reduced too much after World War II,” he added. “We didn't have enough capabilities, we didn’t invest in our capabilities, and what did it cost us? It cost us thousands of lives.”

The post-World War II drawdown and how it impacted the Korean War is at the forefront of military officials’ thinking when it comes to the effects of budget cuts, he added.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, International

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