The Army will bear "unacceptable risk" if it's called to respond to new threats while struggling with budget cuts brought on by the return of sequestration, the service's No. 2 officer said Wednesday.

"We know it will impact our ability to respond to emerging requirements that exceed that which we are currently structured to face," said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn in an interview with Army Times. "Those requirements range from a major conflict to cyber attacks to other threats to our national security that will be affected by a budget that does not match the needs of our force."

The return of sequestration, which Allyn described as his "greatest concern," would force the Army to cut the active force to 420,000 soldiers. Senior Army leaders have said that number is too low.

"The worst-case scenario is you have a major conflict arise somewhere in the world where you have to commit large numbers of soldiers to a situation," Allyn said.

The Army could be forced to deploy a unit before it's fully trained, or delay its deployment, resulting in the forces in the fight having to "hold longer before reinforcements come in," Allyn said.

"Either choice you make results in higher casualties," he said. "Untrained forces take higher casualties. Units that aren't reinforced in combat take higher casualties. When the Chief of Staff of the Army says that the risk will be borne by the blood of our soldiers, that's what he's talking about."

The Army has focused its energy on building readiness among its brigade combat teams as part of a contingency force that's prepared to respond to emerging requirements, Allyn said.

"Today we have about 13 brigades that are trained and ready. We've been able to build that readiness over time across 2014," he said. "But if a requirement looms that puts a demand signal that is bigger than those we have postured in the contingency force, we face a dilemma."

The Army is already cutting its end-strength to 490,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal year 2015. That will be an 80,000-soldier reduction between 2011 and the end of this fiscal year. It also will have cut 13 brigade combat teams, leaving the active Army with 32 BCTs.

Plans call for the Army to shrink to 450,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal 2017; if sequestration returns, the Army is to be cut to 420,000 soldiers.

Allyn, who spoke to Army Times while Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno testified alongside the other services chiefs in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Army has worked hard over the last 18 months to rebuild readiness among its BCTs.

If sequestration returns, "the last 18 months of hard work, where we have gone from 10 percent of our brigades being ready to deploy to today having over 30 percent of our brigades ready to deploy, will be sacrificed by a law which just does not make sense for a military force that is preparing for not only known but unknown challenges around the globe," he said.

Army Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, in his office at the Pentagon on January 28, 2015.
Army Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, in his office at the Pentagon on January 28, 2015.

Army Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Daniel Allyn, spoke with Army Times about the drastic effects another round of sequestration would have on the Army.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Milbrett/Staff

The Army also will be forced to involuntarily separate more soldiers and leaders, Allyn said.

That is "an action that we do not want to take, but have been forced to take to meet the force that's budgeted for," he said.

As the Army focuses on working with Congress, some may question when the United States will become engaged in a major conflict again, Allyn said.

"Historically, no president has ever planned to do that," he said. "Those situations tend to get forced upon us as a nation, so our job as the United States military is to have capability ready to provide multiple options to our national leaders to be able to respond not only to the known crises around the world but to the unknown."

The world remains a "very, very dangerous place," Allyn said, citing the escalating tension in Europe, the growing instability in the Middle East, among other hot spots.

"There are just a lot of requirements that are out there that demand a trained and ready force, and that is what we're responsible to deliver," he said. "We will maintain our focus on developing our leaders so they can lead our force through whatever decisions are made by Congress, but we clearly are engaged in articulating what we see as absolutely unacceptable risk that will be borne by our soldiers if we are forced to respond to a situation for which we have not been able to train, prepare and resource our soldiers and our units for the missions that could come."