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mchugh25 Feb 15. If sequestration spending cuts trigger this year, it will affect every person and mission the U.S. Army has, Army Secretary John M. McHugh said at a Defense Writer’s Group breakfast here today.

McHugh said his top three priorities at the moment are the budget, anything dealing with deployed or forward-deployed forces, and combating sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 is still the law of the land, he noted, and it imposes caps on military spending. For fiscal years 2014 and 2015, Congress provided relief, but the caps are due to come back in full force in fiscal 2016. If that happens, the active duty Army would drop to 420,000 soldiers. Today, the force is just under 500,000.

“There will virtually be no corner of the Army that will be untouched,” the secretary said. “Obviously, the primary concern that we discuss in these very uncertain times are the readiness ratings for soldiers and whatever tomorrow’s missions might be.”

Readiness Would Drop

Army readiness would drop, McHugh said, as the service would not be able to protect funding for home-station training.

Just the reduction in end strength itself would be a disaster, he added. The Army would have to cut more brigade combat teams, with all of the effects that would have on dwell time at home station between deployments as well as on mission capabilities for the remaining brigades.

“It’s likely, in the active component, that we would have to come down to 27, 28 BCTs,” he said. “That provides reduced capacity to go out and do missions.”

Sequestration would waste millions of acquisition dollars, the Army secretary said. The service has made great progress in saving money via multiyear procurement contracts, he explained, and under sequestration, those contracts would be in breach and the prices would go up.

Effects of Sequestration

“Whether it’s readiness or our acquisition [and] modernization programs or the sheer numbers of available soldiers to go out and do missions, all would be severely diminished,” McHugh said. “We would be unable to follow the current defense strategic guidance.”

The secretary said he is also focused on the 147,000 soldiers the service has in harm’s way or forward deployed. “Many of them are on active missions,” he said. “Balancing our available resources against their needs, which are absolutely essential, and getting them the equipment and the training they need is something I rightfully need to spend time on.”

Addressing his third top priority, McHugh said the Army is dealing with sexual assault and sexual abuse. “This is totally unacceptable to our core values,” he said. “It rips apart our Army, and I truly believe if we don’t get this under control, it calls into question the integrity of the entire Army. If we don’t fix this, we’re a far lesser Army.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

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