Keeping up with the many messages being traded between military leaders, members of Congress and the defense industry can be difficult these days. The severe budget cuts planned for the next decade are the tie that binds these parties and while it’s far from a war of words, there are certainly competing expectations at play.

Military leaders, while not necessarily happy with the prospect of troop cuts and lack of funds for force development and infrastructure, is towing the necessary line when it comes to managing defense industry expectations, and the message is clear – the cuts are here, and they’ll get worse.

Speaking at the fifth annual Joint Operational Contract Support Leaders Conference this week Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said the current trend of contract support is an unsustainable model for the future.

Dempsey specifically pointed to a statistic that contracted operational support has expanded from six troops per contractor during the Revolutionary War to fewer than one service member per contractor in Afghanistan. This level of wartime contracting support is just one arena that will scale back as troops return from overseas and the Pentagon trims the fat from the budget.

Dempsey said, “we’re shrinking back to what we can afford” in troop numbers. Contract support – both deployed and home station – will also scale back.

The sentiments are similar to thoughts Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno recently voiced, concerning a desire to place military personnel in instructor and policy roles that have been filled by contractors in recent years. With more troops heading home, support functions that were once accomplished by contractors out of necessity are likely to revert back to military personnel.

With sequestration still a possibility, promising even more severe cuts, all parties impacted by the defense budget will likely to continue to weigh in on how to cope with a budget reality that could go from bad to worse.

Gen. Dempsey, along with other military leaders, continues to take the optimistic approach.

“When resources become scarce, we have to start thinking,” he said. “My message is — this is an opportunity.”

Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves cybersecurity, social media, and the U.S. military. She thinks service members, civilians and contractors are a winning trio, kind of like Earth, Wind & Fire. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email editor@clearancejobs.com.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.