Full Sequestration Would Force Army to Drop 100,000 Soldiers, Officials Say

Army Secretary John McHugh, left, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, arrive on Capitol Hill  to testify for the hearing on the Defense Department budget requests for Fiscal 2014 Army Secretary John McHugh, left, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, arrive on Capitol Hill to testify for the hearing on the Defense Department budget requests for Fiscal 2014 J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The U.S. Army would shed at least 100,000 soldiers -- in addition to the cuts already scheduled from the post-war drawdown -- if the full, 10-year sequestration program goes into effect, according to service officials.

Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff Ray Odierno told the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Tuesday that across-the-board cuts would severely and negatively impact readiness and modernization.

“One-hundred thousand is the minimum,” Odierno told the Senate panel. “If it goes to full sequestration, it will probably be more than that.”

In prepared testimony, McHugh and Odierno said that coupled with previously planned cuts from winding down the war in Afghanistan, the Army could lose as many as 200,000 soldiers over the next 10 years.

The officials said the severe budget cuts would also curb efforts to reduce sexual harassment and assault in the Army.

The service is planning to hire 829 military and civilian sexual assault response coordinators, but sequestration will endanger progress in a number of ways, from “slowing hiring actions to delaying lab results, which hinders our ability to provide resolution for victims,” said McHugh and Odierno. 

Odierno also expressed concern over Army reservists returning home from deployment. Unemployment among that population is roughly 24 percent, more than three times that of the population at large.

Odierno said over-deployment has led to reservists losing or quitting their jobs at an alarmingly high rate.

“That’s what I worry about when we go into the future,” Odierno said.

"We’ve got to get their deployments down because they are citizen soldiers,” he said. “We want to have that right balance so that they can maintain their job.”

Odierno added the Army can use additional resources provided to it from the 2011 Veterans Opportunity to Work Act to help reservists find jobs, after the number of deployments has been reduced.

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