Army gives Soldier-wellness programs high priority in budget

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Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn speaks during the quarterly Veterans Service Organizations/Military Support Organizations summit at the Pentagon, Feb. 11, 2015.  Photo by Staff Sgt. Laura Buchta
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn speaks during the quarterly Veterans Service Organizations/Military Support Organizations summit at the Pentagon, Feb. 11, 2015. Photo by Staff Sgt. Laura Buchta

Army gives Soldier-wellness programs high priority in budget

by: David Vergun | .
U.S. Army | .
published: February 13, 2015

WASHINGTON (Feb. 11, 2015) -- Even as the drawdown continues and modernization and training funds are imperiled further by the threat of another round of sequestration, the Army will do all it can to protect "core" Ready and Resilient Campaign programs, or R2C, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn.

Allyn and other Army leaders spoke during the quarterly Veterans Service Organizations/Military Support, VSO/MSO, Organizations summit at the Pentagon, Feb. 11. About two dozen representatives from a variety of VSO/MSO organizations were in attendance, as well as members of non-federal entities who support Soldiers and family members.

R2C core capabilities that will "continue to be fully resourced, or as resourced as we can in the current budget environment," are: Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention, Comprehensive Soldier & Family Fitness, Suicide Prevention, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Health, Performance Triad, Family Assistance Support Centers, Relationship Enhancements/Strong Bonds, as well as Soldier For Life initiatives.

Allyn linked those programs to readiness, as well as the well-being of Soldiers and their families and called sustaining them "absolutely vital to us."

HIGH PERSONNEL COSTS

Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Horlander, director of the Army budget, spoke following the vice chief's remarks.

He broke out a number of budget charts, one of which showed the cost of military personnel pay and compensation being about 59 percent this year "and growing," Horlander said. In the fiscal year 2016 budget request, it's up to 61 percent. "We're talking almost two-thirds of the Army's top-line to pay for people."

One participant asked why the personnel pay percentage is as high as it is compared to the rest of the budget, even as the drawdown continues, with the active Army dipping below 500,000 today for the first time in years - down from a high of 566,000 active Soldiers in 2010.

He explained that part of the rise in percentage is because training and modernization dollars have declined much more as a total percentage of the budget. Also, pay and housing allowances have gone up, which is not necessarily a bad thing for that specialist who needs the income, he added.

Ideally, downsizing would be achieved totally through natural attrition, Horlander said. However, the effects of sequestration were such that that approach "is not a viable option right now." He added that re-grading positions, meaning lowering salaries, "would be pretty tough to do" as well.

MODERNIZATION, TRAINING TAKE HITS

"We're at a 21st-century low of 18 percent," Horlander said, meaning money spent for procurement, research and development. That's down from 23 percent last year.

Operations and maintenance and the research, development and acquisition accounts would take further hits if sequestration returns, he warned.

Also, training will suffer, Horlander said. Not only would combat training center rotations be put at risk, so would home-station training.

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