Avoiding a Government Shutdown: Military Connection

Avoiding a Government Shutdown

By Debbie Gregory.

As the September 30th deadline to fund the federal government approaches and Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are locked in a stalemate over a budget agreement to keep the government open, the White House and Senate Democratic leadership signaled that they would be open to a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

Press secretary Josh Earnest said a stopgap measure would not conflict with President Obama’s pledge to veto any budget resolution that locks in limits on defense and domestic spending, known as sequestration.

“I think we would perceive an internal contradiction between the word ‘short term’ and ‘lock in,’ Earnest told reporters.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that any short-term bill must be “clean.”

“That means, no riders, nothing with Planned Parenthood. Nothing with repealing what the Environmental Protection Agency has done. No repealing what the Dodd-Frank bill put into effect to stop us from having another Wall Street meltdown,” Reid said. “No riders dealing with immigration. Just a clean continuing resolution for a short period of time to allow us to do a more full, more complete deal in the very near future.”

Complicating the negotiations, a group of conservative lawmakers in the House of Representatives has pledged to oppose any spending bills that fund Planned Parenthood.

Any short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) that materializes in the near term, whether before October 1 or within a short time after a government shutdown, will likely fund federal programs at current levels until later this calendar year. This will allow a few months for budget negotiations. With a short-term CR, agencies would continue operating, albeit with caution about funding programs until final budget numbers are clear, knowing that additional cuts may be coming.

With that said, Congress must begin budget negotiations, both short- and long-term, in earnest. Neither defense nor non-defense agencies can plan with the uncertainties that continue to surround the federal budget.


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Military Connection: Army Wants to Slow Drawdown

Army to slow force size reduction

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army is now looking into measures to slow the drawdown, though the military branch still intends to reach its planned force size of 450,000 active duty personnel.

The Army is currently slated to cut approximately 20,000 soldiers every year to reach the target number by the end of fiscal 2017. If on schedule, the Army is expected to reach a force size of 490,000 by the end of fiscal 2015. But new discussions have Army leaders talking about avoiding sequestration in 2016, and moving the timeline back by one year.

With that said, Army leadership does not have the ability to make this decision on its own. Congress must approve what would amount to a personnel increase for fiscal years 2016-2018. Right now, Army brass is considering what options to present to Congress.

Soldiers should not breathe a sigh of relief about their jobs security just yet. While a year-long pause in sequestration would improve the Army’s flexibility, should a greater force size than 450,000 be needed, that number is still locked in for the long term.

The Army sees altering its drawdown plan as a necessary measure. Commanders estimate that only 36% of the Army’s units are adequately prepared to deploy in response to a world crisis. The Army wants to have 65%-70% of its units mission-ready and available for rapid deployment, if necessary. If their force sizes continue to decrease, it will only hurt Army readiness even further, as cuts are generally being made in the middle and upper-middle levels of the officer and enlisted ranks.

Under sequestration, the Army could be forced to shrink to 420,000 soldiers.

An active duty end-strength of 450,000 personnel would generate challenges in manning and readiness, but there is a belief that sequestration could eventually impose an Army force size of just 420,000. Part of this move to delay the drawdown could also be seen as defense against an ending force strength of 420,000, which many around the Pentagon believe to be too small for ideal national security.

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