Sequestration Begins

Article excerpt

Sequestration, the automatic across-the-board budget cuts imposed as of March 1, leaves the Army with a shortfall of $18 billion in its operation and maintenance accounts for the fiscal year, which ends September 30.

Although the Army began preparing in January with hiring freezes, layoffs of temporary and term employees, reductions to facilities maintenance, and contract delays, the budget cuts are devastating to readiness. The Army immediately curtailed training for about 80 percent of Army operational units, but those deploying to Afghanistan were not affected.

During budget testimony before sequestration began, GEN Raymond T. Odierno, Army Chief of Staff, warned Congress about its impact. If soldiers are not trained and ready when asked to deploy, he said, lives will be lost.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addressed the effects of sequestration in his first press conference on March 1 at the Pentagon. The uncertainty it causes, he said, "puts at risk our ability to effectively fulfill all of our missions." He also said that its deleterious effects will increase the longer it lasts, as the department is forced to assume more risk.

Army leaders have indicated that the combination of three financial factors can have dire effects. At a Pentagon briefing, MG Robert M. Dyess, director of force development. Army G-8, said the fiscal crisis "can be framed by three numbers: 6, 6 and 6." First, since the Army is operating under a continuing resolution (CR) that holds spending at 2012 levels, the service faces a $6 billion shortfall to the operations and maintenance-Army (OMA) account. Second, sequestration cuts an additional $6 billion from the OMA account. Third, there is an anticipated $6 billion shortfall in the overseas contingency operations budget because of increased operating costs related to the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.

The vast majority of the approximately 800,000 civilian employees of DoD- 250,000 of them Army - will face furloughs one day a week beginning this month and lose 20 percent of their pay through the end of September. Child care center hours will have to be reduced, as will spouse employment programs, school funding, counseling and tuition assistance.

Money for the war in Afghanistan, Wounded Warrior programs, and some critical soldier and family programs are protected - they will not be cut. "This means," explained MG Karen E. Dyson, director of the Army Budget Office, "that this reduction of $18 billion has to be taken against the unprotected amount. …