The Army, which already is planning to cut more than 70,000 soldiers from its rolls, would be forced to remove an additional 80,000 to 100,000 troops from its active-duty and Reserve rosters if automatic budget cuts occur, the service's chief of staff said Wednesday.
"It would cause a hollowness — a significant hollowness in the force," Army Gen. Raymond Odierno told reporters at the Pentagon.
Nearly $600 billion in automatic defense spending cuts over the next 10 years are set to begin in January. Those spending reductions would occur in addition to the nearly $500 billion in budget cuts the Pentagon already has planned for the next decade.
Gen. Odierno called the prospect of an even smaller defense budget "disastrous."
"It would probably cause us to breach many contracts that we already have in place, because we would not meet the current requirements that we have on our developmental contracts, so it would affect every asset that we have in every area," he said.
"Fundamentally, I think all the Joint Chiefs have come to the conclusion that we would fundamentally have to re-look our whole strategy if it occurs," the Army chief added.
Gen. Odierno said that the rate of cost increases for military pay and retirement and health care benefits cannot be sustained under current budget demands, and would have to slow to preserve current troop strength.
"I'm not saying we reduce benefits. What I'm saying is we cannot sustain the rate of increase in our benefits," he said.
"Since 2000, the rate of benefits have doubled until today. If that continues, we're not going to be able to afford the end strength that we have, so it's a trade-off between end strength and pay and benefits, so we got to just slow the rate."
Gen. Odierno said a review of all benefits would have to be done.
"We certainly want to honor the service of those and make sure they are appropriately compensated for their selfless sacrifice, and their families that have sacrificed," he said. "That's in the back of our minds as we move forward."
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