Sequestration is still the law of the land, and we are now one-quarter through fiscal year 2014 with no apparent relief. Congress is concerned about the impact and expressing varied forms of relief, almost none of which address the defense situation. It is beyond time to worry about the effect. We must get on with how to live through it.

Budget projections pose a continuing threat to the Army’s capability to field a war-winning force and to address the potential disasters that always in the past were associated with periods of unreadiness. Beyond those concerns, however, is the threat to an ability to recover when the next crisis does occur. That ability requires protecting the competence of the country’s leadership to the prepared for the next crisis.

We now know (we’ve been told) that our Army will not be committed in a major war, that the Navy and Air Force will protect our interests if we are attacked, and that special operations forces will carry out any punitive offenses needed. The Army’s mission will require an immediate action reserve force, but its principal function will be to help train and advise the armies of our allies, who will furnish the bulk of any landpower needs.

Those budget projections also promise a major threat to Army end strength. It is my contention that a very great problem associated with the presumed reductions is the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act of 1980 (DOP-MA), which prescribes proportional limits of officer ranks, and the other rules and restrictions on the numbers of NCOs.

First, there is the suggestion that the Army structure, except for an immediate reaction force, can be maintained at cadre strength. The realization is that cadre unit personnel are all officers and NCOs who can be provided only if DOPMA and other restrictions are modified.

Second, and more important, are the requirements for what we today call the institutional Army: Training and Doctrine Command, the Army Materiel Command, the Army Medical Command, the Army Recruiting Command and much more. It is the institutional Army that must protect the future. The Army education system, which today is dedicated almost exclusively to tactical operations expertise, must provide the officers who can plan and manage a major mobilization, force development, and the expansion of the Army to meet the next crisis. It must also educate and prepare an NCO Corps that will train and retrain the flood of recruits and recalled veterans who will fill those cadre units, and it must provide those contingents, all officers and NCOs, who will conduct the training of the allied forces.

The Army Materiel Command must have a complement of officers who can plan and manage an industrial expansion that can support whatever mobilization is required. The balance of the institutional Army faces the same kinds of requirements, and it is the education system that must provide who will guarantee the survival of the Army.

History tells us that we were saved in World War II because we had an Officer Corps capable of directing and managing that total Army effort. The corps was maintained almost exclusively by the education system. The Army had no division or corps maneuvers or exercises in the 1920s and 1930s. It had to be complemented by some brilliant industrialists, financial wizards and a government that trusted their judgment, but there turned out to be enough of them, aptly capable, to get things done in time to win that war.

The immediate need is for congressional recognition that the DOPMA limitations require modifications, If not complete elimination, the latter because the services have not begun to identify the specifics of the new requirements. A good start on solutions would be the example set after World War I: The Army was authorized a strength of 240,000 but funded for only about half that number, with no specifications regarding the structure to be staffed or the composition of the force to be maintained.

This requirement needs immediate attention because, as always, it will take some time for Congress to act, and it is certainly not too early to ask it to begin.

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