By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 18, 2013) -- The Army's under secretary said with sequestration in place and deep cuts requested, the Army is concerned about how it can train, equip and sustain Soldiers to be ready when called upon.
Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal, Ph.D., was on Capitol Hill early morning April 18, to have breakfast with and address a delegation of civic leaders from Lawton, Okla., that had come to the nation's capital to meet with their senator. Lawton is the civilian community outside Fort Sill. That military installation is home to more than 50,000 Soldiers, civilian employees and military family members.
The under secretary told those at the gathering the Army sees budget cuts as a threat to readiness, the ability to keep Soldiers and their units prepared to go off to war when called upon. He said he doesn't want to see an Army that is unprepared to meet the demands of the nation.
"We don't ever want our president to have to call up to the Army, and that's the message he gets, an Army where Soldiers aren't trained, a force that is not ready to go at a moment's notice, that's not equipped to go. That's the challenge of readiness."
Now, Westphal said, the Army is having to "back off training" due to new budget realities. Commanders are "modifying, reducing, potentially eliminating some of the training due to these fiscal limits."
Those changes to training directly affect a Soldier's and unit's readiness to deploy, he said. It means it will take more time to spin those Soldiers up to react, if they are called upon to react.
Westphal asked civic leaders to take back to their communities a better understanding of readiness, to explain what it means to the nation.
"Readiness is a critical element," he said. "When you hear that word, when you go back to your communities and talk about that, [ask] is your Army ready to take on whatever fight the president and the Congress deem necessary?"
Despite budget cuts, Westphal didn't leave visitors from Oklahoma afraid their Army would fail them. He said the Army has been around for a long time defending the nation, and would continue to do so, in spite of budget cuts.
"It began 238 years ago tomorrow, April 19, 1775, in Lexington, Massachusetts, and will endure forever," he said of the Army. "The Army is the embodiment of the American spirit; a reflection of its melting pot; a protector of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
"Regardless of sequestration, partisan divide, politics, ideology or economic downturns, your Army will always be on point for the nation."