Secretary of the Army John McHugh gave the keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting Monday morning, and spoke frankly about how sequestration has hurt the Army in training and other areas.

Sequestration cost the Army more than $5 billion during the last fiscal year, including more than $1.7 billion in “reset” costs that typically cover repairing and replacing tools and vehicles damaged in war zones, McHugh said.

“We were forced to rob Peter to pay Paul, and then Paul got furloughed,” he said.

With more uncertainty in federal spending expected, the future is “difficult … uncertain … and complex,” McHugh said.

In other seminars during the AUSA conference Monday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said the Army has only two combat-ready brigades now, according to an article in Defense News.

Even brigades headed to Afghanistan are qualified for the trainer and adviser mission, not combat.

Odierno said he hopes to get the number of trained and equipped brigades to seven by June 2014, according to Defense News.

“There is going to come a time when we simply don’t have enough money to provide what I believe to be the right amount of ground forces to conduct contingency operations,” he said. “We’re not there yet, but it is something we are going to continue to review.”

McHugh also spoke at length on sexual assaults in the Army, which he said won’t be tolerated “at any level, at any time.”

Sexual assault violators must be prosecuted, he said, hinting to unit commanders who decide if charges are placed on soldiers accused of such crimes.

“If our leaders fail to lead, they will be replaced,” McHugh said.

Contact Jacob Brooks at​ or (254) 501-7468

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