By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 05, 2017) -- In the absence of a fiscal year 2017 budget, the Army, like the rest of the U.S. military is still operating under a continuing resolution. It's a situation that Army officials are warning Congress is unsustainable.
"Funding under a continuing resolution for a year will result in a dramatic decrease in training, starting next month, in May," said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley. "By July 15, all Army training will cease, except those units deploying to Afghanistan or Iraq."
With the exception of those units who are scheduled to go into combat operations, Milley told lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday, combat training center rotations would stop if the Army doesn't get a budget.
What will also stop, he said, is basic combat training -- the training that turns young civilian Americans into Soldiers.
Milley pointed to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, as an example. That location is one of four where the Army conducts BCT for new Soldiers. Other locations include Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; and Fort Benning, Georgia.
"At Fort Jackson alone, on an annual basis, we train -- we recruit and bring into basic combat training -- the equivalent of the British Army, every year," Milley said.
If the Army and the rest of the services don't get a budget, by July the Army will have to stop teaching young Americans how to be Soldiers.
"That basic training will stop in July," Milley said. "We will run out of money next month. And then over the following 60 days, we're going to not have the gasoline, the fuel, the ammunition, etc. And basic training will stop."
Those basic trainees won't be able to move forward to their next operational unit.
"We'll have to keep them right there at the fort," Milley said. "They won't be doing anything, they won't be training, they won't be doing anything of substantive value. And then we won't be able to recruit and bring in more trainees."
With no budget, Milley told legislators, and without the supplemental budget as well, Fort Jackson and other locations "for all intents and purposes, will be coming to a screeching halt for all of the activities and training that goes on."
Milley also said it won't just be junior enlisted Soldiers who would be unable to enter the Army. Junior officers as well would lose an opportunity to serve.
This summer, he said, required camps for ROTC cadets, for instance, will need to be cancelled if a budget isn't passed. Milley said that "74 percent of second lieutenants in the U.S. Army won't get commissioned in fiscal year 2018, because they won't be qualified, because their summer camp will be missed."
Training for Soldiers at the combat training centers such as Fort Irwin, California; Fort Polk, Louisiana, and Hohenfels, Germany, will also have to be cancelled, except for units deploying, Milley said.
"If it's a year-long continuing resolution, we'll end up having to cancel the National Training Center rotations out in California, and we'll end up cancelling Joint Readiness Training Center rotations. And we'll also end up canceling significant collective training for home-station training for all of the active units."
Units that are preparing to go into combat operations typically will go first to the Army's combat training centers. In such locations, large-scale exercises can be held that test the ability of brigade-sized units to conduct combat operations. The CTCs provide room and resources that aren't available to those units at home.
"Training across the board, beginning shortly after we run out of money in May, looking at June or July, training will be reduced to individual squad training," Milley said.
Soldiers, he said, need to be trained at the squad level, which is one of the smallest units within an infantry brigade combat team. But squad-level training is not enough. For the brigade to be fully trained and ready, training must be done at company, battalion, brigade and higher levels, he said. Training for those larger units can often not be done at home, and must be done at a CTC.
Not every unit that trains at a CTC is scheduled to deploy for combat. But sending units to the CTCs ensures that those units are combat-ready if called upon for a mission that is unexpected. Failing to provide those units with that training puts risk into the force -- risk that Soldiers could be forced to deploy without being adequately prepared.
"What ends up happening is, if called upon -- this is for the bench now -- if called upon for some unknown contingency, that nobody can predict right this moment, but if it happens, people are going to be going out the door with equipment that is less than optimally maintained, units that are not properly trained, and we are going to be putting young men and women into harm's way that are not ready for that level of combat," Milley said. "That's what's going happen with a lack of training."
NO BUDGET MEANS UNDER-FILLED UNITS
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act authorized the Army to reverse its downward trend on end strength. In the NDAA, the Army was authorized to bring the regular Army up to 476,000 Soldiers, the Army National Guard up to 343,000 Soldiers, and the Army Reserve up to 197,000 Soldiers, all by Oct. 1, 2017.
Milley said that plus-up of Soldiers isn't going to make the Army bigger, at least not in terms of force structure. With that increase in Soldiers, there won't be more brigades, battalions, or companies in the Army.
Instead, he said, those new Soldiers the Army is authorized to bring onboard -- if training and recruiting doesn't halt as a result of not having a budget -- will be used to fill gaps in existing units, which are currently undermanned.
"It's to make the units that do exist, whole, and to make them capable of doing adequate levels of training," Milley said. "Training a unit at 65 or 70 percent strength is inadequate. If you take 10 percent casualties in combat, maybe 15 percent, you're going to be a combat-ineffective unit."
He said the Army is now training some units that are manned between 65-75 percent strength at CTCs.
"This increased end strength, I want to be careful it's not mischaracterized as an increase in the Army. It's not. It's a filling of the holes in the existing force structure," Milley said.
The Army and the rest of the U.S. military has operated under continuing resolutions for eight years now. Offered the opportunity to consider not having a budget to be a "new normal," Milley said he didn't think that was an acceptable option.
"Candidly, failure to pass a budget, in my view, as both an American citizen and the chief of staff of the United States Army, constitutes professional malpractice," Milley said. "I don't think we should accept it as the 'new normal.' I think we should pass it, and pass the supplemental with it. And get on with it. The world is a dangerous place, and it is becoming more dangerous by the day. Pass the budget."