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Budget is the Primary Concern of Secretary of the Army John McHugh

Scott Willis

Of all the conflicts facing soldiers overseas, the Secretary of the Army says the budget is perhaps their biggest threat.  John McHugh stopped by Syracuse University Thursday to learn more about its innovative veteran and military-connected programs.  He says how the military responds to emerging issues such as ISIS’s growing control of Iraq, Russia’s activity in Eastern Europe, and others is dictated and affected by funding. 

   McHugh says the army can barely meet its current missions with 450,000 troops.

"That'll be tough, and we'll spin at a very high level, but we can meet them.  But we view that as the absolute minimum.  That's why sequestration is such a threat to us.  Because it will require we come down substantially below that minimum  of 450,000.  And we believe and we've testified that, should that happen, we can no longer meet the missions expected of us."

 McHugh says the rapidly changing situation in Iraq is getting a lot of attention at the Pentagon and the White House, and he’s confident they have the matter in hand.  He says it’s a challenging, multi-dimensional situation that has no simple answer and has to be worked out among many sides.

"Principally, in my judgment, the Iraqi government.  Who, until such time are able to affect a true all parties approach to governance, who no longer segregate out the Kurds, the Sunnis, is going to remain a very problematic area."

McHugh says troop levels and readiness, including training and equipment, is key to avoiding disastrous results that go beyond just the army.

"This is not just about an army secretary trying to keep his troops.  This is really about the national security of this nation, and some very fundamental decisions that have to be made."

McHugh  previously represented the North Country and Fort Drum in Congress from 1993 to 2009.  He knows his tenure as Secretary of the Army is unusual.

"No one comes to these jobs forever.  Right now, of 21 army secretaries in the army's history, I've served longer than all but two.  So, every day is a gift."

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at