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Is the US Army Near a Breaking Point?

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Asia Defense

Is the US Army Near a Breaking Point?

According to a senior Pentagon official, this very well may be the case in the near future given sequestration.

Is the US Army Near a Breaking Point?
Credit: flick/U.S. Army

Joining a chorus of senior Pentagon officials and military officers, acting Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson warned in an interview with Stars and Stripes that the U.S. Army – the world’s deadliest conventional fighting force – will be near breaking point if automatic sequestration, set to begin in October, takes place.

The U.S. Army could be cut down from 450,000 to 420,000 active duty soldiers should sequestration – automatic spending cuts across the board in order to reduce federal expenditure – continue with the result that the army would not be able to meet its current deployments.

“The Army’s near breaking point if you go that low, I think. Already we see the fact that people are demanding the Army do many missions — from West Africa and the Ebola crisis to now resurgent problems in Iraq, Syria. Russia of course posing a threat,” Carson said. “So the demand on the Army is not slackening at all, and at the same time, their numbers are falling.”

Less manpower available, means more soldiers deploying more often, which in turn affects the readiness of the U.S. Army, Carson notes:

 This has a real cost, a real cost to their readiness, because when they’re out in the field, they’re not training. Across all the services — the Marine Corps the same — the personnel cuts have been deep. And if they go much deeper, they will become a matter of grave worry to us all.

The U.S. Army currently fields the smallest force since the beginning of World War II. In July 2015, a document obtained by USA Today outlines that the Pentagon plans to cut another 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 Army civilian employees by the end of September 2018 with reductions bottoming out at around 450,000 active duty soldiers by then.

Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff, general Ray Odierno, voiced his grave concern over troop reductions back in July noting that the U.S. military can no longer deter conflict due to the shrinking number of soldiers: “The reason we have a military is to deter conflict and prevent wars. And if people believe we are not big enough to respond, they miscalculate.”

A February 2015 report by the Heritage Foundation indexing U.S. military strengths reiterates the dangers of fiscal constraint:

The common theme across the services and the United States’ nuclear enterprise is one of force degradation resulting from many years of underinvestment, poor execution of modernization programs, and the negative effects of budget sequestration (i.e., cuts in funding) on readiness and capacity.

The study also notes that the United States will have difficulties fighting two regional wars simultaneously (the so-called Major Regional Contingency strategy) despite maintaining the world’s largest defense budget.