Army Hit Hard Under Post Shutdown Funding Cloud
The entire Defense Department faces a post-shutdown era of “uncertainty” on budgets, pay, force size, and modernization, but the coming changes are expected to hit hardest on the Army, defense officials said.
It’s not just a period of uncertainty for the Army — it’s a period of “dynamic uncertainty,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of Staff, said in an e-mail to the entire force Wednesday as the government shutdown was ending.
“We are making changes to our institutions and processes to ensure that we are maximizing the limited resources available to the Army,” Odierno said.
First, the Army will have to gauge the impact of the shutdown on its budget and planning. Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale on Thursday gave an initial estimate that the shutdown cost the Defense Department at least $600 million.
Army officials Friday were still compiling their own estimate, but the cost to the Army Reserve alone was about $46 million, according to Reserve officials.
Nearly 500,000 Army Reserve and Guard members were affected when the Defense Department went into shutdown mode on Oct. 1. Across the U.S., more than 400,000 Guardsmen and more than 75,000 Reserve soldiers lost drill and training hours and the money that went with it.
In a notice issued Friday, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service said that the continuing resolution on the budget passed by Congress and signed by President Obama to end the shutdown would allow all Reserve and Guard members to receive back pay entitlements to include bonuses in the next pay period.
The Army also incurred major costs during the shutdown from ordering thousands of personnel to return to base from travel duty, including those in schools and training programs. The Human Resources Command was still in the process of re-authorizing the travel and school assignments.
The Army has already commited to a major reduction in force size from 570,000 to 490,000, but Odierno has warned that the force could get even smaller, given the uncertainty of future funding levels.
Under the sequestration process of the Budget Control Act, the Defense budget would be cut another $52 billion next year, which would come on top of a projected decline in the overall Defense budget to $475 billion, about 10 percent below the White House request for $527 billion for Fiscal 2014.
Although there was no guarantee that Congress would end or alter the sequestration process to boost funding levels, the Army was going ahead with a plan that Gen. Robert Cone, head of the Training and Doctrine Command, has called a “fundamental re-design of the Army.”
In addition, the Army has also committed to re-shaping its Brigade Combat Team structure. Under the plan, the number of BCTs in the Army would be reduced from 45 to 33 by 2017.
The remaining BCTs would grow in strength to about 4,500 troops.
“We will reinvest some of the Soldiers, equipment and support personnel into the remaining BCTs,” Odierno said in announcing the plan last summer.