Commander of US Army units in Europe: Readiness might suffer with sequester

U. S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell

From Matt Millham, Stars and Stripes:  Some American units in Europe could soon be unprepared to deploy as U.S. Army Europe grapples with a $166 million budget shortfall caused by the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.

The command spent months planning to offset the anticipated sequester-related budget reduction, and was able to cover $286 million of the overall cuts of $452 million imposed on USAREUR.

The shortfall is small compared to the roughly $47 billion budget cut the Pentagon took with the sequestration order President Barack Obama signed Friday, but leaves the command with some hard decisions as it tries to close a budget gap and maintain support for soldiers.

The full effect of the deficit may not materialize — and isn’t likely to be clear — for months, USAREUR commander Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell said.

“Today, I feel pretty confident in sending just about any unit in USAREUR, with some additional training, pretty quickly to any contingency,” Campbell said in an interview Monday. “If you ask me that, would I feel that way in three to six months, I’d probably be a little more worried about our ability to do that.”

USAREUR’s annual budget typically runs between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion, according to USAREUR officials. The command also gets between $300 million and $400 million a year to cover the cost of contingency operations, such as the recent deployment of U.S. forces with Patriot missile defense systems to guard Turkey from the threat of Syrian missiles, officials said.

Though most of the $452 million withdrawn from USAREUR came from its base budget, some came from its overseas contingency operations budget, leaving that account $16 million short, Campbell said.

“So we’ll need cash by probably the middle of April to be able to continue with a lot of those operations.”

Campbell said he was in discussions with the Army and U.S. European Command to provide those funds, but the decision will be made at levels above him. . . .

Under the command’s cost-cutting plan, units not in line for deployment will not conduct live-fire exercises above the platoon level, Campbell said.

While that won’t immediately erode units’ capabilities should they be needed to deploy on short notice, “my expectation is that you will be less ready and less trained over time. . . .”

Units preparing for deployment to Afghanistan or other operations will continue to train as they did before sequestration kicked in, Campbell said. USAREUR also plans to fully fund its NATO obligations.  (photo: Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

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