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The coming of a much weaker Army

The picture of future American defense capabilities is severely clouded by shrinking Pentagon budgets and adversaries’ technological advances according to General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said recently that the current budget constraints will erode American battlefield superiority. Dempsey went on by predicting that it would become increasingly difficult to balance the competing demands of protecting our allies abroad, securing Americans at home and deterring future wars. “The smaller and less capable military makes meeting these obligations more difficult,” he said. “Most of our platforms and equipment will be older, and our advantages in some domains will have eroded. Our loss of depth across the force could reduce our ability to intimidate opponents from escalating conflicts.” He added that: “… many of our most capable allies will lose key capabilities. The situation will be exacerbated given our current readiness concerns, which will worsen over the next three or four years.”

This follows the release by Defense Secretary Hagel who said that the administration’s budget request for fiscal 2015 on March 4. The proposed defense budget is $496 billion--about 8 percent less than last year’s budget had planned for 2015. Secretary Hagel predicted that future budgets are likely to be flat which will require the Army to make personnel cuts deep and fast enough to relieve the pressure to the impact on Army procurement and research programs.

Army Size, Roles and Missions as reflected in this budget include:

• A reduction by the end of 2015 in Army force size from 520,000 active duty soldiers to 440,000-450,000 -- about 40,000 fewer than the Pentagon was planning last year -- in approximately 32 brigades.

• The Army is trying to determine the role of this smaller force in the context of the other services. o Today’s threat environment is more about combating terrorism with global reach than countering conventional threats. o What is the Army’s role as the focus shifts to the Asia-Pacific region, where naval and air power seem more relevant. • Personnel reductions provide the easiest buffer from dramatic cuts to procurement.

o The Army typically spends less of its total budget on procurement -- it accounted for 12 percent of the fiscal 2014 request, compared with the Navy’s 28 percent and the Air Force’s 24 percent.

• The reductions will also affect the Army’s force modernization effort

o One option, raised by the Army in its equipment modernization strategy, is to supply only part of the force with the most up-to-date equipment.

The debate about the Army’s size, role, and procurement cuts won’t be resolved until after the November elections. In the end, we expect that Army vehicle, aviation and communications and electronics programs will see cuts in the rate of growth to be exact, given the current dust up over Russian activities in the Crimea and our perceived weakness the defense budget may be an issue for the 2014 election debates.

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