G-1 testifies: Army must balance quality of life, readiness, modernization
WASHINGTON -- The Army G-1 told members of the House Armed Services Committee that with sequestration will come a slowdown in Soldier compensation and benefits in order to maintain readiness and modernization.
While Lt. Gen. Howard K. Bromberg said he doesn't want to see that happen, he testified Tuesday, to the House Armed Services Committee, subcommittee on military personnel that the Army will need to take a holistic approach to budget slashes. He said what the Army cannot do is sacrifice readiness for quality of life.
One congresswoman asked about proposed changes that include increasing out-of-pocket costs for housing, changing military heath care, and removing appropriated support for commissaries.
"We can't afford to lower the training standard at the expense of something else," Bromberg said, "because the last thing you want to do is deploy somebody who hasn't been trained to the level they're supposed to be. I think that's the ultimate level of Soldier care that we're after."
Personnel chiefs from the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Defense Department each agreed with Bromberg that readiness, training and modernization in the end would trump quality-of-life issues.
Bromberg said these are extremely hard choices, particularly for the Army as it draws down to potentially the smallest force since the end of the Cold War.
"That balance between end strength, modernization and readiness is actually -- is critical," he said. "So we're kind of in a fix that we have to go to do something to slow the compensation. We don't want to take money out of people's pockets, but we have to do something to maintain that readiness."
The committee also asked about the transition policy for Soldiers leaving active duty.
"With our policies, the shortest amount of time anybody would have notification would be six months as required by law," Bromberg said. "For NCOs (non-commissioned officers), there is, by policy, up to 12 months to transition… and transitions are in place of duty. Commanders run the program -- great partnerships as well."
One congressman asked about Soldiers who wanted to remain in the service, but couldn't due to the qualitative separation program and officer separation boards.
"Everybody's service is valued -- officer, NCO and down to the lowest private," Bromberg said. "So we're trying to do this in the most transparent way. For example, for the officer separation board, even the (selective early retirement board) -- every colonel and lieutenant colonel was counseled by a general officer before that board met and they were given an option to voluntarily retire with additional time."
He said the same applies to NCOs. They are notified well in advance of when they would be separated and provided ample opportunity to review their files.
"For the 1,100 NCOs we've selected over the last three years, those NCOs will be given 12 months to transition, from the time they're notified (until) they have to retire or separate," he said, adding that the Army also offers those between 15 and 20 years of service the option to ask for early retirement.
A transparent program, personal counseling and looking people in the face are the most important facets of transitioning, according to feedback received to date, Bromberg said.