WASHINGTON, D.C. (Talk Media News) – The Obama administration’s nominee slated to take the reins as Army Secretary said Thursday that he is concerned about the downsizing of the force and does not support the Islamic State war authorization that the White House proposed in February 2015.
Eric Fanning, who served as the Acting Army Secretary before stepping down earlier this month over a legal dispute, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “I do worry about the size of the Army today.”
“If confirmed, I would look for ways to reverse as many of the combat cuts made last year,” he added. “I do believe it’s a risk.”
Fanning said improving army readiness would be one of his top priorities as Secretary of the Army, the service’s top civilian post.
With a current active force that stands near 490,000 troops, the number is set to drop to 450,000 troops by 2018 and possibly to 420,000 by 2021 because sequestration under the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The federal spending bill passed by Congress in December lifts some of those cuts, but they will go back into place when the it expires in 2017.
“These budget-driven force reductions were decided before the rise of ISIL or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said Senate Armed Forces Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.). “And if mindless sequestration cuts are allowed to return, the Army will shrink to 420,000 troops, increasing the risk that in a crisis, we will have too few soldiers who could enter a fight without proper training or equipment.”
In addition, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) pointed out that not all of the active troops are deployable.
About 1,500 troops are musicians, about 1,100 are prisoners at the military correctional facility Fort Leavenworth and about 15,000 are out-processing, Fanning said.
Fanning was present before the committee for his confirmation hearing, the chance for lawmakers’ to to question a President’s nominee and decide whether or not they will vote to approve him or her for the role.
Testing Fanning, Sen. Lindsey Graham questioned him on the counter Islamic States Authorization for Use of Military Force that President Barack Obama proposed last year, which Graham disagreed with.
“From an Army perspective would you like to see limitations on time when it comes to fighting ISIL?,” Graham asked, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
“I think my preference would be to not have a limitation,” said Fanning
“What about geography, should we limit the geography?,” said Graham.
“I think we should fight them where ever they are,” said Fanning.
“They’re in Afghanistan today, I applaud the administration for allowing the military to go after ISIL as if they were al-Qaeda. Means, are there any means you want to take off the table?,” said Graham.
“Uh, no,” said Fanning
“Well thank you, I look forward to voting for you as the next Secretary of the Army,” said Graham.
Fanning also said that he does not support retroactively demoting General David Petreaus, a four star who gave classified information to his biographer and mistress while still in uniform, as media reports have speculated.