Military readiness must remain paramount as the military seeks ways to operate in the face of looming budget cuts, the services’ vice chiefs warned Congress recently.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, the No. 2 officers in the four military services said they know the days of abundant funding are over.
“We recognize we cannot expect to operate the way we have over the past decade,” Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, told the panel. “We cannot expect the same level of funding and flexibility to continue indefinitely.”
So, as the services seek new efficiencies and innovative ways of doing business, Chiarelli emphasized, “it is essential that we make the necessary investment to ensure a strong, capable defense.”
That, the vice chiefs agreed, means providing the resources and manpower to accomplish whatever missions the military is called upon to fulfill. It requires maintaining appropriate force levels, replacing equipment worn out during a decade of conflict and continuing to build capabilities for the future, they said.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, assistant Marine Corps commandant, pointed to shortfalls in equipment readiness for Marines not serving in the combat zones.
“As we move beyond Afghanistan, we will need continued support to reset our equipment and restore the readiness of our units at home station,” he said. “We will also need support in modernizing our equipment as we seek to reconstitute the Corps for tomorrow’s challenges.”
Meanwhile, the officers agreed that acquisition programs must continue, governed by prudent decision-making, to ensure the future force’s capabilities.
“Our future readiness depends first on maintaining the right balance between our current readiness requirements and the procurement of future platforms and capabilities,” said Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, vice chief of naval operations.
Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff, noted that the Air Force is using the oldest fleet in its history to support current operational demands. For example, he said, delays in the F-35 joint strike fighter program and decreased funding for F-22 Raptor modernization have put more reliance on the legacy fighter fleet.
Extending the service life of these and other aircraft ultimately adds new costs, Breedlove said, both in increased maintenance requirements and modernizing required for them to maintain combat capability.
Greenert stressed the importance of ensuring current ships and aircraft are able to reach their expected service life.
“Within our current top-line budget, that requires that we limit demand for Navy forces to a level that is sustainable within our planned force structure over the long term,” he said.
Although high operational demands in the past 10 years have taken a toll on military equipment and put heavy stress on the force, the vice chiefs said today’s military has a rock-solid foundation to face the future.
“The United States continues to confront a dynamic international environment requiring the military to remain strong and agile enough to face a diverse range of threats,” Breedlove said.
The Air Force remains a mission-focused and highly prepared force, he said, working with its joint partners to defend and advance U.S. interests “by providing unique capabilities across the full spectrum of operations required to succeed in today’s fight and future conflicts.”
Chiarelli told the House panel the Army is as good as it’s ever been.
“Let me assure you up front, your Army remains the most capable and decisive land force in the world,” he said. “It is better trained and equipped, and our leaders are better prepared, than at any other time in history.”
The Navy, Greenert said, remains the most capable maritime force in the world.
“We will continue to maintain a forward-deployed presence around the world to prevent conflict, increase interoperability with our allies, enhance the maritime security and capacity of our traditional and emerging partners, confront irregular challenges and respond to crises,” he said.
Likewise, today’s Marines “are highly trained and combat proven across the range of military operations,” Dunford said.
“We can respond with prompt, decisive action to a wide range of challenges,” and with that capability, “send a clear message to both our allies and potential foes,” he added.