The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 24, 2013

Army warns of deeper troop cuts

Army at 'dangerous crossroads'

WASHINGTON — Senior Army officials warned Tuesday they may have to cut more than 100,000 additional soldiers over the next decade unless automatic spending reductions forcing the military services to slash their budgets are stopped.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Secretary John McHugh said the losses would undermine the service's ability to be prepared for wartime missions. "Today we find our Army at a dangerous crossroads," McHugh said.

The Army has already planned to trim its ranks from a wartime footing of 570,000 soldiers to 490,000 due to previously planned budget reductions approved by Congress in 2011, according to McHugh said. But if the automatic cuts, known as sequestration, are extended into future years, tens of thousands more soldiers, including members of the Army National Guard and Reserve, will have to be let go due to a lack of money, he said.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the budget cuts could threaten readiness levels on the Korean peninsula, where military forces remain on high alert after North Korea threatened to attack the United States and South Korea. Sequestration has forced the cancellation of a series of training exercises intended to help prepare soldiers for possible combat there, he said.

Odierno also said the cut of 100,000 additional troops is a minimum number if sequestration is allowed to continue.

"The cuts are simply too steep," he said.

Sequestration went into effect March 1. Overall, the Defense Department is required to cut nearly $42 billion by the end of September. If no action is taken to reverse sequestration, the mandated cuts will extend into future years. The Army's share of the automatic cuts over the next six months is $7.6 billion. In addition to sequestration, the military also has to absorb a $487 billion reduction in defense spending over the next 10 years mandated by the Budget Control Act passed in 2011.

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