Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, director of strategy, plans and policy for the U.S. Army, told members of The American Legion at its Washington Conference that sequestration could have devastating effects on the nation if not avoided. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

Army bracing for massive cuts

Potentially only three days away from automatic federal budget cuts under sequestration, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, director of strategy, plans and policy for the U.S. Army, told members of The American Legion Tuesday that effects could be felt throughout the nation if a solution cannot be achieved.

“We are taking steps right now to reduce expenditures and planning for budgetary shortfalls,” Snow told hundreds of Legionnaires gathered in the nation’s capital for their organization’s 53rd Washington Conference. “We are curtailing training for about 80 percent of all of our ground forces. We have canceled all but one of our brigade-level training center rotations for non-deployed forces. These training cancellations will impact our readiness – basic warfighting skills. It will also produce shortfalls across a number of specialties, including aviation, intelligence, engineering, and our ability to recruit new soldiers into the Army. We’ll also reduce work at Army depots, which will delay the reset of equipment coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

He explained that the Army faces two specific challenges as Congress searches for a solution to the federal budget deficit crisis. The first is immediate. In the short term, Snow said, furloughs of more than 250,000 Army employees and the termination of some 3,100 temporary workers are expected to “result in low levels of readiness, and it could be as early as six months from now.”

The bigger challenge, he explained, is long term. “For Fiscal Year 2014 and beyond, sequestration could result in a loss of a minimum of an additional 100,000 soldiers... That’s on top of the planned 88,000 cut that we’re taking between now and the end of 2017. This equates to about a 40-percent reduction in our brigade combat teams.”

He said the cuts are expected to deeply impact training, modernization programs and recruitment. However, he added, troops in harm’s way today will be protected.

“As we prioritize,” Snow told the Legionnaires, “we will always ensure that the soldiers in Afghanistan and those next to deploy are properly equipped and trained.”

He said the Army remains hopeful that full sequestration “can be averted, not just delayed.”

In the meantime, though, “We’re doing everything we can to mitigate this impact.”

Snow also acknowledged The American Legion’s role in helping military personnel make the transition to civilian life and how that fits into Army policies and programs that include mandatory transition counseling for troops no more than 12 months removed from separation.

He specifically applauded the Legion’s coordination and participation in more than 200 job fairs last year alone, as well as the organization’s efforts to convert military experience into credits for licenses and credentials in a number of career fields.

“It is clear to all of us in uniform that you are doing a lot,” he told the Legionnaires.