The U.S. Army may not be able to address the nightmare situation of another major land war amid the ongoing budget stranglehold on the military, it's top officer said Monday.
Across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, the October shutdown of the government and Congress' inability to pass a budget since fiscal year 2012 have all slashed the number of Army soldiers ready to deploy to combat, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Monday.
"We have two brigades that are trained. That's it. Two," said Odierno, while speaking with reporters at the annual Association of the United States Army meeting in Washington, D.C. "The worst case scenario is you ask me to deploy thousands of soldiers somewhere and we have not properly trained them to go."
Sequestration, which began April 1, has slowly chipped away at military spending for acquiring new weapons and equipment, as well as training troops who are not immediately deploying to active war zones.
Other training exercises and support missions came to a grinding halt at the beginning of October when the government shut down for more than two weeks. Initial Defense estimates say this cost the department $600 million, and $100 million for just the Army.
Odierno points out that troops bound for Afghanistan are only preparing for the "training and advising" mission now before U.S. forces as they plan to withdraw by the end of 2014.
"They're not trained as brigades to conduct combat operations," says Odierno.
The Army will be able to shift money around to train fully a total of seven brigades -- roughly 3,000 to 5,000 troops -- by June 2014.
The AUSA annual symposium, marketed as a celebration of the U.S. Army's military-industrial complex, is an opportunity for private contractors to unveil new, cutting-edge technology and for service members to network with others in defense circles.
The tone of this year's summit has been marred by discussions of an increasingly strangled budget. The culminating effect of cuts and reductions has, as Army Secretary John McHugh said Monday, "Robbed Peter to pay Paul, and then Paul got furloughed."
McHugh also criticized analyzing the Army from before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as a part of the discussion for reducing the future size of the force.
"This isn't 2002 or 2003," he said. "Those kinds of comparisons are a fool's errand."
"The needs of our soldiers and their families are much more extensive, for wounded warriors, and requiring family programs," he said.
The on-going budget issues did not, however, slow down the conference. Organizing officials say the number of participants and attendees is larger than the one held in 2012.