Sequestration cuts now have hit “full-spectrum” training, or the ability to conduct offensive, defensive and civilian support operations simultaneously, according to several members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Troops heading to Afghanistan no longer undergo full-spectrum training because their mission is different now, having shifted from full-out combat to providing training and advising for Afghan security forces as the war winds down. But troops back home aren’t doing the training either, because funding has become scarce under sequestration and what’s available is being used to make sure troops deploying to Afghanistan are trained for their mission there until the planned withdrawal at the end of next year.
Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that budget cuts are curtailing full-spectrum training, hindering the military’s ability to respond to a crisis that requires more than just military might, during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
“The units that are getting ready to go to Afghanistan are training very differently today … they’re being trained to do training and advisory missions. So they’re not training to do full-spectrum operations, which we would normally train them to do,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said.
But he said the Army still has to be ready for full-spectrum operations, even if they’re on a smaller scale than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where counterinsurgency tactics were just as key as being able to dominate militarily. “They have not been trained in that, in the things that we think are important as we develop the readiness levels in order to respond to contingencies,” he said.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh echoed Odierno’s concerns about full-spectrum training. “We have walked away from that over the last few years because of the demand of the war in Afghanistan. Last year we canceled our Red Flag exercises, which are our high-end training profiles, and we even canceled some of our weapons instructor courses because we didn’t have enough money to conduct them. That is where we train our Ph.D.-level warfighters to lead and train the rest of the force. We have got to get back to that.”
“If we’re not ready for all possible scenarios, then we’re accepting the notion that it’s OK to get to the fight late, we’re accepting the notion that the joint team may take longer to win, and we’re accept the notion that our war fighters will be placed at greater risk. We should never accept those notions.”