A day before heading back to Capitol Hill to discuss the 2014 budget with House appropriators, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno warned on Tuesday that even if the Department of Defense were to be spared the worst of sequestration, “we already start 14 with a hole because we haven’t done the training we wanted to do in ’13.”
The only units going through full, previously scheduled training rotations are those heading to Afghanistan and rotating into South Korea, a move the Army was forced to take in order to keep its frontline troops ready. Service leaders have said previously that they’re being forced to accept some risk elsewhere by only performing squad-level training exercises for the rest of the force.
“Our readiness is okay right now, but it is degrading significantly” as the months tick by, Odierno said.
Speaking at a Defense Writers Group meeting in Washington, Odierno said that even with the drawdown in Afghanistan, the capability to put boots on the ground elsewhere remains critical—and it’s that capability that he’s worried about.
If action were required in Syria, “the next three to four months, we’d probably have the capability to do it,” he said. “Next year it becomes a little more risky because our readiness is lower.”
Despite readiness concerns, the chief still thinks that the US Army would have the capability to put boots on the ground if asked to by the president. “If you ask me today, we have forces that can go,” he said, but warned that this readiness won’t last long since units aren’t going through normal training exercises.