Army Reserve Chief Calls for Budget Flexibility
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2015 The chief of the Army Reserve understands that the U.S. deficit is a threat to national security, but says the component needs flexibility from Congress to spend what money it gets more effectively.
Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley told the Defense Writers’ Group today, “if you don’t have the flexibility or even authority to prepare a budget, how effective is that budget going to be in meeting goals and objectives?”
The DoD budget does not have a lot of flexibility, Talley said. He told the reporters to remember that Congress wrote the Budget Control Act of 2011 to be so onerous that it would force senators and representatives to make tough budgetary choices. This did not happen and sequestration triggered.
The act still hangs over the Defense budget process. “The challenge under the Budget Control Act and sequestration is not that we need to control our spending, we do. It’s the lack of flexibility on how we curtail -- it’s a lot of salami slicing,” he said.
“We need more flexibility in how we curb our budget and, to be honest, ... leaders make decisions when they are in fiscally restrictive environments to do less with less. That old saying ‘do more with less’ is just ridiculous, that’s a fable,” the general said.
Talley asks that leaders be given the responsibility to make these decisions and establish priorities. “Ever work for a boss where they had 10 No. 1 priorities?” he asked. “What our leaders need to do in Congress -- and I’m confident they will -- … they’ve got to make decisions, we’ve got to spend less money than we take in and we’ve got to prioritize.”
Fiscal Environment Makes Budgeting Difficult
The Army Reserve submits “multiple budgets a year,” Talley said. One budget proposal assumes the president’s budget request is fully funded, one assumes funding at the level mandated by the Budget Control Act and one is between those two.
“The challenge is when you are spinning and trying to crank out those budgets, and you have continuing resolutions that is how you provide financial instability and lack of security for you organization,” he said.
Complicating all this is an unstable security environment, Talley said. The demand signal for the Army is going up, not down, just as its budget is going down, not up, the general said, noting that this significantly increases risk.
“Our job is to win the nation’s wars and win them decisively,” Talley said. America must be sure, he added, “there is no enemy on the planet that can even remotely stand up to the power of the United States military.
“That is still the case,” he continued, “but I have some concerns that the sausage-making process on how we generate that readiness and that capability are becoming jeopardized because of a lack of flexibility in the budget and particularly in a significant reduction in the Army’s budget.”
This is already happening. The component has been getting money from the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, Talley said, but that is drying up.
The Army Reserve must provide technical capability for operational missions around the world, but “I can’t do that if I don’t have [OCO] money to generate the readiness,” he said. “Right now, my main funding is 39 training days a year, which is the same [level] it was right after World War II.”
At that level of funding the Army Reserve is a strategic reserve, not an operational arm, he added.
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