A former Oklahoma lawmaker holding one of the top civilian posts at the Pentagon is warning the Army is "near breaking point" with the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration.
Brad Carson, a House Democrat from 2001 to 2005 who now awaits confirmation as under secretary of defense for Personnel and Readiness, tells Stars and Stripes
that the Army has its smallest force since "before World War II."
"If sequestration holds, it's possible the Army could be forced down to 420,000 active duty soldiers," he said.
"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."
"So the demand on the Army is not slackening at all, and at the same time, their numbers are falling," he said.
The Army announced in July it would cut 40,000 troops and lay off 17,000 civilian employees
over the next two years.
Carson points out soldiers "are deploying more often," and it comes at "a real cost to their readiness."
"[W]hen they're out in the field, they're not training," he said. "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."
It's also impacting how many Americans will choose the Army as a career, he notes.
"The Army is at 450,000 — maybe half the size it was at the end of the Cold War," he said. "So… by definition, there will be fewer people who stay in and make a career out of here."
But he noted only about 17 percent of the force makes a 20-year career out of the military, "and the downsizing of the force means we can be more selective in who we take and more selective in who we keep."
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