Official: Sequestration could bring Army to 'breaking point'

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The U.S. Army could be forced to a “breaking point” if spending cuts return in full force, a top defense official is warning.

In an interview published Monday by Stars and Stripes, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson discussed how sequestration is affecting different parts of the military.

“If sequestration holds, it’s possible the Army could be forced down to 420,000 [active-duty soldiers],” said Carson, who previously served in Congress. "The Army's near breaking point if you go that low, I think.”

Even as the demand continues for military missions in Iraq and Syria, the cuts are affecting military readiness for these operations, he said.

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“Across all the services — the Marine Corps the same — the personnel cuts have been deep. And if they go much deeper, they will become a matter of grave worry to us all.”

Asked which threats keep him up at night, Carson said, “Geopolitically, the threats of Russia and China are the threats that keep people here in the building awake.”

At the same time, however, he added that “sequestration is a grave threat” because he said the readiness of the forces “will suffer.”

“So sequestration and the budget cuts have hurt readiness in the past. And they're revisited upon us. And I am fearful that our readiness will suffer again, in a way that sometimes takes five or ten years to dig out of,” he said.

Sequestration spending ceilings are scheduled to return in full force on Oct. 1 for both the Pentagon and non-defense domestic programs.

Democrats and the White House are pressuring the GOP-controlled Congress to negotiate a new agreement this fall that relieves those caps.