The Army controls a lot of things: vehicles, soldiers’ lives, training schedules and everyday life on post. But there’s a big thing the Army doesn’t have complete control of that can affect everything else: its own budget.
In discussing the “government shutdown, sequestration, the Budget Control Act” and everything else to impact the Army’s budget during the past year, Secretary of the Army John McHugh said hard times are coming to the Army sooner rather than later.
“We knew that our budget fortunes, just as they had done in every post-conflict period in our nation’s history, were likely to be reversed,” McHugh told a crowd gathered last week for the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C.
“But at that same time, we also had — or we thought we had — the opportunity, the time, to get it right,” McHugh said.
Due to the inability of Congress to do its job, the Army and many other branches of government are dealing with broken budgets filled with confusion, furloughs and no light at the end of the tunnel.
The “ongoing fiscal realities have extracted a great cost,” McHugh said, “in real world preparedness and real world manpower. And, perhaps most sadly of all, real world morale.”
While civilians who work for the Army were furloughed, McHugh said he is hearing from commanders who have no money to train soldiers unless they are about to deploy.
“Soldiers who don’t get to shoot? Don’t get to train? It really does bring back those pictures of World War I with recruits working out with broom handles and sticks because they didn’t have the real weapons to train with,” he said.
McHugh went on to say that the Army is planning two vastly separate budgets: One on the president’s budget, the other, on continued sequestration.
In the middle is Congress, which has failed to pass a real, full-year budget for the Army since 2007.
Instead, it continues to pass so-called “continuing resolutions,” which are mere stop-gap measures that keep things rolling with no clear end.
Here’s the thing: The Army can deal with the hand it is dealt. Even if that hand isn’t worth what it was in previous years.
But for Congress to keep reshuffling the deck, and dealing again every five minutes, just isn’t fair.
And everyone in the Army will suffer because of it.