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FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Campbell said Monday that senior leaders implementing federal budget cuts will remain focused on soldiers and units that are still in Afghanistan.
The general, who assumed his position March 8, said during a break between meetings at Fort Leavenworth that the Army would continue to support the 68,000 troops in Afghanistan and units that will replace them as the war draws down. President Obama has set a deadline of removing the vast majority of U.S. combat forces by the end of 2014.
“We’ve got a lot of challenges,” said Campbell, who spoke to new battalion and brigade leaders attending a mandatory pre-command course.
Campbell said the impact of the $85 billion in automatic federal budget cuts was amplified for the Army because of other spending reductions in the current fiscal year. He estimated the Army was nearly $20 billion below what was requested for ongoing missions and operations.
The four-star general said he stressed to the new commanders that what they have experienced in military spending has been the exception, not the norm, in recent decades. He said some joked that they remember when they had to bring their own supplies, such as toilet paper, before 2001.
Campbell, acknowledging that was an extreme example, said the point was that commanders are going to have to learn to lead without all the resources they need or want to prepare their soldiers.
“If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority,” Campbell said, noting the Army is starting the process from a position of strength and citing the quality of the training and equipment.
Campbell said unlike when the Army faced cuts after Vietnam in the 1970s, the nation’s last prolonged war, the United States is coming out of more than a decade of war with an all-volunteer force. That will create new dynamics, he said, including supporting soldiers with brain injuries and stress-related illnesses.
“It’s a balance and for us it’s about readiness in the end. It’s about maintaining the trust, not only within the Army, but with the American people,” Campbell said. “In the end of this, the American people don’t care about sequestration. What they care about was that when the Army was needed it was ready to go and ready to protect them.”
Campbell also said the reductions will affect military training and other Army programs, including potential furloughs of civilian employees beginning in April and running through September.
He said advanced education for general officers was being curtailed, suspension of some tuition-assistance programs and performances by the Army band. Soldiers will still receive education support through GI Bill benefits.