When it comes to budget cuts, a senior military official says the Defense Department is being vilified when Congress is to blame. (Susan Walsh / AP)
A senior defense official says the Army and Defense Department are being unfairly vilified in the media over military budget cuts when Congress is really to blame.
“Congress is the one that passed the law that put sequestration into place,” the senior official told Army Times. The official requested anonymity in order to speak candidly. “Sequestration is bad. We’ve got to get rid of sequestration. What the Army and DoD leadership is trying to do, within the constraints, is give you the best [military] we can. We don’t want to cut.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel rolled out key details of the Pentagon’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal Monday. Some highlights: the first-ever rollback in Basic Allowance for Housing; a military pay raise that would match last year’s 1 percent hike, the lowest in the volunteer era; massive cuts to commissary subsidies; and potentially increased health care fees for both active-duty families and retirees.
The official also addressed scrutiny the Army is facing over a decision to transfer all of the National Guard’s AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to active-duty.
National Guard leaders and advocates and members of Congress have called the move unfair. But the senior official cited a different statistic, one that shows the Guard is also making some gains under the budget proposal.
When it comes to manpower, “We’re going to cut the active Army disproportionately to the Guard,” the official said.
The Army is moving from a force that’s 49 percent active duty and 51 percent Guard and Army Reserve, to 45 percent active, 55 percent reserve.
The official also blasted a bill in Congress that would stand up a commission to study the Army’s future force structure, a move that Guard officials have said they support.
The bill, HR 3930, sponsored by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., would establish a National Commission on the Structure of the Army and prohibit the Army from divesting, retiring or transferring any aircraft from the Army National Guard. It also would stop any end-strength reductions in the Army Guard at 350,000.
“The commission is an easy way out,” the official said. “It’s saying, ‘Let’s kick this down the road,’ and it’ll say you can’t cut the Guard. And if you can’t cut the Guard, we’ll have to cut the active.”
The official cautioned against too much focus on cost of the Active Army versus cost of the Guard.
“In many cases, the National Guard is cheaper, but that’s if you don’t have to use them,” the official said. “You’ve got to have balance.”