Army Secretary ‘Optimistic’ Sequestration Can Be Averted

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

With a second round of sequestration looming over the Pentagon, John McHugh, the secretary of the Army said he was hopeful Congress could avert the mandatory budget cuts.

“I wouldn’t use the word 'confident.' I would use the word 'optimistic,'” he said Feb. 25 during a meeting with defense reporters in Washington, D.C.

As the Ryan-Murray deal — an agreement brokered by Congress in 2013 to offer sequestration relief — expires in fiscal year 2016, military leaders are bracing for potential funding cuts across the Defense Department budget.

In the president’s fiscal year 2016 request, the Defense Department asked for $534 billion in base funding, with an additional $51 billion in overseas contingency operations funds. However, caps under the Budget Control Act — which set sequestration in motion — are set at $499 billion, meaning that Congress will either have to make a deal or pare back the budget. OCO funding is not subject to sequestration.

McHugh, a former congressman before taking the helm at the Department of the Army in 2009, said that there is a large consensus within Congress that something must be done.  

“Whether you are talking to a member of the House or the Senate, on the Republican side or the Democrat side, most, not all, but most agree that sequestration needs to be addressed and needs to be fixed. That‘s a point in our favor,” he said.

Service leaders will soon visit Capitol Hill to make their case that a return of sequestration would have dire consequences, he noted.

Should sequestration come to bear, both the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle programs will be shielded as much as possible, McHugh said. “I don’t want to draw lines in the sand, but certainly our approach would be to protect those two programs,” he said.

Currently, Oshkosh Defense, Lockheed Martin and AM General are vying for the JLTV contract which would include the procurement of more than 49,000 vehicles for the Army and 5,500 for the Marine Corps.

The program — which is one of the Army’s largest acquisition efforts — is meant to replace aging Humvees while also increasing protection and improving survivability.

The JLTV program is on track and fully funded through fiscal year 2020, McHugh said. A down select for a vendor is expected in the fourth quarter of this year, he noted. Competitors received a final request for proposals for the full-rate production phase in December 2014.

“We’re absolutely committed to it. It’s on time. It’s on budget,” he said. “It is our intent to protect that. We think it is an absolutely essential platform.”

The AMPV program — which replaces the M1113 personnel carrier — will also be shielded, he noted.

“The M113 personnel carrier is long outdated and both from a practical perspective, but also a soldier safety perspective, it is an absolutely necessary program. We’re going to do everything we can to keep that going,” McHugh said.

M113 armored personnel carriers have been in the Army’s fleet since the Vietnam War.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, Land Forces

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