Gen. Lloyd J. Austin
III Testifies on Readiness, Contingency Funding
May 14, 2012
The services’ vice
chiefs testified on readiness during a Capitol Hill hearing today, with
most stressing the continuing need for overseas contingency operations
“These continue to be challenging times for our nation’s military, and
we’ve been at war now for over a decade,” Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III,
Army vice chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s
readiness and management support subcommittee. “In fact, at no other
time in history have America’s servicemen and women fought for so long a
period with an all-volunteer force.”
Austin said the Army is focusing its efforts on balancing force
structure, modernization and readiness as keys to success, but will need
assistance from Congress with ensuring the continuation of overseas
contingency operations funding.
“This funding is imperative to our ability to manage a gradual reduction
of our end strength over the next five years from 560,000 [soldiers] to
490,000,” he said. “Lack of OCO funding will drive us to a steeper
drawdown, primarily through involuntary separations and other means that
could result in significant hardships for thousands of Army combat
veterans and their families, and generate a large bill for unemployment
and other related costs.”
Austin also noted the Army will need “reset” funding for two to three
years after it completes the return of equipment from Afghanistan.
“Absent this funding, we will be required to accept risk in other areas
at significant cost with a negative impact on readiness,” he said. “We
are confident the strategy that we’ve developed will help us achieve our
Navy Adm. Mark Ferguson, vice chief of naval operations, spoke to the
committee regarding the state of the Navy’s readiness.
“We focused on funding the critical elements of readiness as we balanced
our investments in future capability, operations and maintenance,
personnel, training and spares,” he said. “Our budget proposes
reductions in force structure and delays in the procurement of some new
platforms to ensure the wholeness of our remaining force.
“Importantly, we invested in maintaining a sustainable deployment model
to allow for the reset and stride of our forces in rotational
deployments as well as in selected deployments and training for the
fleet,” he continued. “Quite simply, we prioritized readiness and
capability over capacity to ensure that we deliver a ready and relevant
Navy now and in the future.”
Ferguson noted the Navy also depends on overseas contingency operations
funds or similar supplemental funding to sustain its readiness.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., assistant commandant of the Marine Corps,
said his service has ensured forward deployed Marines are at the highest
state of readiness possible, but still face challenges.
“Our forward-deployed units have personnel and equipment requirements
that exceed standard allowances,” Dunford said. “The additional
equipment is due to the nature of the fight in Afghanistan and the very
distributed nature of operations. The additional personnel are required
to support staffs and trainers for Afghan security forces.”
Dunford said the Marine Corps estimates ground equipment reset costs
will be $3.2 billion based on combat losses, equipment restoration and
extending the service life of selected items. “We believe it will take
two to three years of overseas contingency funding to complete reset
once our equipment returns from Afghanistan,” he said.
Gen. Phil M. Breedlove, Air Force vice chief of staff, told the panel
that Dec. 17, 2011, marked the first time in 20 years that the Air Force
did not fly an air-tasking sortie over Iraq.
fiscal pressures, there continues to be an increasing demand for air,
space and cyber capability, which is evident in our nation's new defense
strategic guidance,” he said. “In order to keep faith with the American
people and provide our unique capabilities upon which the entire joint
team so greatly relies, it is imperative that we balance our force
structure to preserve our readiness and maintain a risk-balanced force.”
Breedlove said the Air Force must rebalance its active and reserve
components to meet joint force requirements without exposing the total
force to unfavorable ratios of time deployed to time at home.
“While no plan is free of risk, our analysis tells us that we are at an
increased, but manageable risk, as measured against this new strategic
guidance,” he said. “As we responsibly rebalance this force, we remain
committed to advancements in technology and future investments to
continually sharpen our sword.
“Although we will be smaller,” he added, “we will remain an effective
and ready force.”