- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Army officials described a grim future under spending cuts due to begin Friday, with soldiers mowing lawns and hauling garbage instead of training, and facilities with broken water mains and leaky roofs.

Army officials are facing a severe budget deficit that they have dubbed “6-6-6”:

A $6 billion shortfall in an operations and maintenance account that directly supports war operations, training and exercises, and base operations and programs — the result of a continuing resolution that has held Pentagon funding to 2012 levels.

A $6 billion shortage because of unanticipated costs in getting equipment into and out of the Afghanistan war zone.

A $6 billion shortfall in the operations and maintenance account under automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration that are to start Friday.

Of course in popular culture, the number 666 is also a well-known reference to the devil.

An Army major who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak on the record said that some posts have delayed or canceled training above the squad level.

“Some training events have been canceled,” the major said. “There’s very little equipping going on. A lot of equipment I would have had to purchase off the shelf, I don’t have access to anymore.”

Training is vital to the retention of soldiers, especially as the Afghanistan War draws down, the major said.

“A lot of kids that have tasted that are going to be asked not to do that anymore,” he said. “Soldiers worry they will spend days counting trucks in the motor pool. That is a very real thing for a lot of young sergeants and officers.”

The lack of training as a result of sequestration will affect soldiers’ readiness, Army officials said Wednesday during a roundtable discussion with editors and reporters at the Pentagon.

War operations, training and equipment for troops deploying overseas, and the wounded warrior and critical family programs will be protected from budget cuts, the officials said, but all other accounts and programs will be negatively affected.

“Family and soldier programs will be protected as much as possible,” said Brig. Gen. Curt A. Rauhut, director of resource management for the Army’s Installation Management Command. “[But] we will have to reduce some family programs.”

Some programs that could be affected are child care services and development centers, military youth sports, and soldier recreation programs, he said.

Maj. Gen. Karen E. Dyson, director of Army budget, said some 3,100 civilian workers already are being laid off and the Army has implemented a hiring freeze.

In addition, all third- and fourth-quarter equipment maintenance at Army depots has been canceled, all new contracts have been reduced and no construction projects have been started this year, Gen. Dyson said.

If sequestration takes effect, the Army will require more than 250,000 civilian employees to take one day of unpaid leave each week for 22 weeks, which will result in a 20 percent reduction in their annual pay.

The cuts will “stress and shock our workforce,” Gen. Dyson said.

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