McHugh: Without Budget Resolution U.S. Faces ‘Dangerous’ Future
During one of his last high profile speeches as secretary of the Army, John McHugh warned of a dangerous future if the United States’ government continues to pare back the military’s budget.
“We are on the ragged edge,” he said Oct. 12 during a keynote address at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. “If we continue to strip resources from this Army … [then] at some point someone is going to have to tell us to stop doing something. As I look at the world right now, I don’t know what that would be.”
McHugh blamed some policy makers' “grossly naïve view of the geopolitical environment” for leaving the military underfunded to cope with unexpected demands, he noted. “We attempted to predict the future. Just one problem with that — that’s fortunetelling. Fortunetelling doesn’t work,” he said. “I didn’t foresee the United States Army being the foundational force to fight the Ebola outbreak in
Western Africa. I don’t think we fully understood the rapid pace of the expansion of terror cells throughout the northern part of Africa with al-Shabab, Boko Haram [and] the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
The military was also taken by surprise by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and by the rise of the Islamic State, he said.
“The problems we have most been befuddled by … [are] not the challenges that we saw, not the ones that we planned for, that we budgeted for, it’s the ones we didn’t see,” he said.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, chief of staff of the Army, echoed McHugh’s remarks during a media briefing at the conference.
“As I look around the world today, there’s no doubt in my mind that the United States is safe,” he said. But “the world outside the boundaries of the United States, the velocity of instability is increasing … and there are a lot of things going around the world today that present very real threats to the security of the United States.”
The military must maintain its capability and capacity. For the Army, Milley said his priorities include maintaining readiness and the future force.
McHugh said unless a budget is agreed to before the expiration of the current continuing resolution, there could be major issues for the Army.
“For the moment … we do have sufficient funds to move forward,” he said. However, come December the “lapse of the current CR could potentially open the doors to some very precarious situations.”
McHugh and other Army leaders have been vocal about the need for more funding for the armed services; however, he noted that some outside the Pentagon might not take the threat of reduced budgets seriously.
“There is a thought amongst some in this town that when the chief and I continue to talk about the challenges we face that we’ve been in some fashion crying wolf,” he said. “We’re in an extraordinarily rare position in American history where our budgets are coming down but our missions are going up.”
If the president’s requested budget is not approved, or if another unseen conflict pops up, it will “put this country in a very dangerous place,” he said.