Four of the five U.S. armed services gave the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee an idea of what they think they’ll need to begin to reset and refit their forces over the next several years — but other than lots of zeros to the left of the decimal point, no specifics were offered.
The assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr., told the panel that if forced to take budget cuts, “it would come in the form of capacity.” He further estimated that it will cost the corps about $12 billion to reset from Iraq and Afghanistan, and that once the service tallies its needs after Afghanistan, “I suspect that we will find that in communications and mobility we will need new capabilities.” (Cough, Humvee recap…cough.)
The Navy’s vice chief of naval operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert — tapped to be the next chief of naval operations when Adm. Gary Roughead retires later this year — warned that if the Pentagon saw budget cuts of between $400 and $800 billion, the Navy "won’t be able to meet our global force management plan." He also said the Navy now thinks that it would need about $700 million to maintain and fix its ships and aircraft.
The Air Force’s vice chief of staff, Gen. Philip Breedlove, also painted a grim picture, telling the panel that personnel recovery and ISR assets are “being consumed by the CentCom fight,” and that any big budget cuts “would cause us quite some concern” in recapitalization. He said that the service is at the “ragged edge” of what it can do outside of the two wars in the CentCom theater of operations, and that even there the Air Force is operating with the oldest fleet in its history. The White House’s proposed $400 billion, 12-year spending cut would force the service to “have to go into a fundamental restructure of what our nation expects from its Air Force,” he said, adding that “we will not go hollow.”
The Army vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, said the Army is fulfilling all of its needs in the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan, “but not without cost,” and that even with proposed force structure cuts, the service will be able to train and retain a balanced force that can meet a variety of threats. Chiarelli added that the Army has “a tendency to hold on to force structure longer than we should,” but that “we will have the force structure that allows us to man that equipment” no matter what the budget situation might be. In the most optimistic moment of an otherwise grim hearing, Chiarelli practically beamed when asked about the network integration tests that the service is performing at the White Sands Missile Range, saying that the tests have the potential to change the way the Army tests and buys equipment in the future. Even so, the Army’s refit needs are big, and after a decade-plus at war, the costs are only beginning to be grappled with.