• December 19, 2014

Senior military officials order cuts as Pentagon prepares for shortfall

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Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013 4:30 am

The Army is asking Fort Hood, along with all other installations, to conserve and save as steep congressionally mandated budgets remain possible.

Some of the directives Army officials passed down last week to post commanders include a 30 percent cut for Army base operations this year, an immediate freeze on civilian hiring and a reduction of all nonmission-essential training activities.

The military is ordering these trims reluctantly as the Pentagon prepares for a $52 billion shortfall that it said it will face this fiscal year if Congress and the White House do not reach a deal by March 1 to avoid across-the-board cuts under the scenario known as sequestration.

Fort Hood Garrison Commander Col. Matt Elledge said it is too soon to tell what the specific combined effects would look like for Central Texas.

“Like the Army, we plan to implement prudent measures that will help mitigate our budget risks, to ensure these measures are reversible and recoverable, and to the extent feasible, minimize any harmful effects on readiness,” he said in an emailed statement.

The Army’s top officials sent a memo Jan. 16, with 15 “near-term” actions to help the Army “reduce our expenditure rate and mitigate budget execution risks in order to avoid even more serious future fiscal shortfalls.”

“The fiscal situation and outlook are serious,” Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno and Secretary of the Army John McHugh wrote in the memo issued to all Army commands.

“We expect commanders and supervisors at all levels to implement both the guidance contained in this memorandum and the detailed instructions to follow,” they wrote.

The memo instructs commanders to avoid cutting programs supporting wounded troops and those training for deployment. It mandates a departmentwide hiring freeze and asks commanders to “terminate temporary employees consistent with mission requirements.”

Overall, the memo said the Army will seek to slash its base operations budget by 30 percent from fiscal year 2012 by cutting back on community support, recreational programs and utilities. The Army projects that could save $2 billion.

Nonmission-essential training activities up for reduction are those not related to maintaining “readiness for Operation Enduring Freedom, the Korean forward-deployed units, Homeland Defense and the Division Ready Brigade.” Also targeted is conference attendance and professional training that is not mission essential.

The secretary and the chief also have directed installation commanders to cease facility sustainment activity that is not “directly connected to matters of life, health or safety,” and to stop restoration and modernization projects.

Any measures taken as a result of the memo must be reversible, the document stated.

“At this point, the steps should focus on actions that are reversible if the budgetary situation improves and should minimize harm to readiness,” McHugh and Odierno wrote.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote that readiness of the Armed Forces is at a tipping point, in a Jan. 14 letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The letter was also signed by the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Dempsey wrote that “we are on the brink of creating a hollow force,” because under the current budget conditions and legislation, the Pentagon could be ordered to keep a number of troops it can’t sustain. “Troops on the front lines will receive the support they need,” the letter said, “but the rest of the force will be compromised.”

A spokesman for Levin said the senator has not yet responded to the letter.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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