Top Enlisted Leaders Express Concerns on Budget Issues
By Lisa Ferdinando
Army News Service
WASHINGTON, March 20, 2013 The top enlisted members of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps underscored to lawmakers yesterday the quality-of-life challenges the services face in tough fiscal times.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III said the current budgetary situation has far-reaching effects on the Army and the lives of its members. He and his counterparts testified before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on military construction, veterans’ affairs and related agencies.
"The magnitude of today's fiscal uncertainty has grave consequences for our soldiers, civilians and families," Chandler said. "The current continuing resolution is affecting shortfalls for our funding of overseas contingency operations due to emerging costs in theater. With the enactment of sequestration, the Army is also being forced to make dramatic cuts to personnel, readiness and modernization programs, thereby putting our national security at risk."
In today's uncertain and complex environment, Chandler said, the Army is committed to ensuring that it is the best manned, equipped, trained and led force in the world. But he said the limited resources are affecting its ability to do that.
"Our strategy to defend the nation and its necessary actions requires the Army to have flexibility and predictability, something we do not currently have, and that Army leadership is challenged to alter," he said. "The fiscal outlook which the Army faces today is challenging and, to my recollection, unprecedented. Fiscal uncertainties do not allow us to prevent, shape and win."
Chandler and the other top enlisted leaders stressed the importance of quality-of-life programs and resources to support a wide range of areas, including sexual assault prevention and response, mental health, suicide prevention, caring for wounded service members, family support, child and youth development, housing, and helping members transition from the military into the civilian world.
Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Micheal P. Barrett said quality-of-life programs are important to Marines, and reductions will be made wisely.
"Our approach to required sequestration cuts to our Marine and family support portfolio will focus on preserving programs that support the health, welfare and morale of our Marines and families," Barrett told the House panel. "These programs are considered most essential in meeting the organizational objectives of the Marine Corps, and they promote the physical and mental well-being of Marines and families.
"We will be fiscally responsible during this challenging budget environment and will critically assess the needs of our family members and prioritize resources," he continued. "We will do so, however, in a manner that sustains the world's finest fighting force while keeping faith with our Marines and their families."
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody said that the quality of service initiatives are an important aspect of military life, and an overwhelming factor in the decision airmen and their families make in remaining in the service.
"We place a great deal of importance on the sense of community in and around our bases," he said. "We focus on four main areas: health and wellness; airmen and family support; education, development, and employment; and airmen and family housing."
While not at the hearing in person, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike D. Stevens said in submitted testimony that the current fiscal situation is having an impact across the Navy.
"We must continue to ask hard questions and make hard decisions that will enable us to provide a quality of life commensurate with the sacrifices our sailors and their families make daily," he said.
"A full-year continuing resolution, sequestration and associated out-year budget reductions will make it extremely difficult to continue our current and anticipated level of operations, compel us to cancel some maintenance and training, and constrain our ability to invest in future capability and capacity," Stevens added in his submitted testimony.
He said the reductions have a negative impact on morale and quality of life of sailors and their families, but the Navy will continue to fully protect wounded warrior programs and will preserve family programs to the greatest extent possible.