Vitter questions Army Gen. Odierno
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator David Vitter, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), met with Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Chief of Staff of the Army, this week and today questioned him and Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Vitter’s questions focused on the Defense Department’s plans for Louisiana’s military bases, including Fort Polk and Barksdale Air Force Base.
“Our commitment to our military needs to remain steadfast, and it was reassuring to hear General Odierno speak so highly of what Fort Polk has to offer toward our military readiness for current and future operations,” Vitter said. “Cuts to our military sometimes get placed on the negotiating table – as they did earlier this month during negotiations on America’s response to the crisis in Ukraine. Fort Polk and Barksdale continue to be huge priorities both for our national security and for communities in Louisiana, and I’ll continue to fight to make sure our troops have the support they need.”
Today Vitter questioned Army officials on its five-year plan and 2015 budget proposal during the SASC hearing.
The Army is currently drawing down to an end-strength of 490,000, and because of the president’s new budget, it will be taken down to a force of no more than 450,000 soldiers. The Defense Department says it almost certainly will need to drop even further and will be forced to eliminate even more of its Brigade Combat Teams. Odierno has repeatedly said 450,000 is the lowest level we can maintain while also keeping our nation’s necessary capabilities and is the lowest level since 1940. Vitter reiterated that the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk is essential to sustain the Brigade Combat Teams and military Readiness.
Readiness continues to be a major concern for the Army and will also be a major focus of Vitter’s when SASC holds a markup of its annual National Defense Authorization bill.
Defense Department officials have committed to keeping a strong force presence at Fort Polk and to improving capabilities at the base in previous meetings with Vitter.