McHugh: Thinly-stretched Army on 'ragged edge' of readiness
WASHINGTON — An increasing workload and continuously shrinking budgets have pushed the United States Army to “the ragged edge of readiness,” Army Secretary John McHugh said Monday.
McHugh, speaking at the annual convention of the Association of the United States Army, called for Congress to work together to provide the Army — and the larger military — with budget clarity as it deals with contingency and humanitarian issues across the globe and prepares for the “unseen” problems it could face in the near future.
While the Army is currently funded — with a budget of about $120 billion, down from a high of $144 billion — it and other federal organizations remain uncertain what will come at the end of a continuing resolution set to expire Dec. 11.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army has more than 150,000 soldiers deployed outside of the U.S., serving in dozens of missions including advising Afghan and Iraqi security forces, reassuring NATO allies in eastern Europe, and training alongside partners in South Korea and Japan.
"We are in an extraordinarily rare position in American history where are our budgets are coming down but our missions are going up,” McHugh said.
Today’s Army must train to face a wide range of potential adversaries from insurgencies and guerrilla warfare to near-peer conventional forces, he said, noting the U.S. had not anticipate such major issues as the rise of the Islamic State, the “rapid pace of expansion” of terrorism in Africa, or the Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine.
"My greatest fear is what comes next — what don't we see that's heading toward us at this moment,” McHugh said. “What don't we see that will face us and our allies? And, will we be agile and ready enough?"
Continuing to “strip resources” from the Army, he said, will put the service in a positions where its “requirements are overtaking our capabilities.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, speaking alongside McHugh on Monday, echoed those statements, saying history has proven that a capable land Army is essential to military success. Long-range bombing strikes from the air or sea alone, he added, will not win wars.
“At the end of the day, the first and opening shots of any conflict are likely fired from the sea or the air, but the final shots are usually delivered on the ground,” Milley said. “… If the last 18 to 20 months haven’t proven the necessity of a viable land force, I’m not sure what will.”