WASHINGTON, Mar. 25, 2014 - While the money for the Army is getting short, demand for soldiers continues to grow, Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee this morning.
Any decisions about Army force structure, strategy or budget must be done with full knowledge of the "world as it exists, not as one we wish it to be," he said.
Odierno pointed to recent headlines out of Crimea, Syria and North Korea as a few issues that must remind Americans of the complexity and uncertainty inherent in the international security environment. "It demands that we make prudent decisions about the future capability and capacity that we need within our Army," the general said.
The general reminded the lawmakers that more than 70,000 soldiers are deployed today on contingency operations, and about 85,000 soldiers are forward stationed in nearly 150 countries, including nearly 20,000 on the Korean Peninsula.
The Army deters potential adversaries by being capable of appropriate and rapid response anywhere in the world, and across the entire range of military operations from humanitarian assistance and stability operations to general war, Odierno said.
"Last year, I testified that we can implement a 2012 defense strategic guidance at moderate risk with an end strength of 490,000 in the active Army, 350,000 in the National Guard and 202,000 in the U.S. Army Reserve," Odierno said. "I stand by that assessment."
The service will hit those end-strength marks at the end of fiscal 2015. "However, the law of the land is sequestration," he said.
If sequestration triggers in fiscal 2016 as current law requires, the Army will be forced to slash end strength more. Active duty forces will be 420,000, the National Guard will be 315,000 and the Army Reserve will drop to 185,000.
"The size of our Army at this level of funding will not allow us to execute the defense strategic guidance, and in my opinion, puts in doubt our ability to execute even one prolonged, multiphase major contingency operation," the chief of staff said.
Odierno said he worries that at sequestration levels the Army will not have the appropriate capacity to meet operational commitments and simultaneously train to sustain appropriate readiness levels across the total Army.
"The president's budget submission supports end-strength levels at 440,000 to 450,000 in the active Army, 335,000 in the Army National Guard and 195,000 in the U.S. Army Reserve," he said. "I believe this should be the absolute floor for end-strength reductions. At this level, we can meet the defense strategic guidance but as we continue to lose end strength, our flexibility deteriorates."
Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.