Budget Impasse Could Damage Army's Part in European Reassurance Initiative
WARREN, Mich. — As a resurgent Russia continues to provoke its neighbors with aggressive behavior, a U.S. initiative to support European allies may be hurt by a budget impasse on Capitol Hill, Army officials said April 27.
The European Reassurance Initiative, or ERI, is intended to support U.S. partners by funding a persistent, rotational air, land and sea force in the region and to bolster training. Former President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget request would have quadrupled the ERI’s 2016 funding level to $3.4 billion.
The Army plays a key part in the ERI, but efforts to send more trucks, tanks and vehicles to the continent are being stymied by a continuing resolution for fiscal year 2017, said Scott Davis, program executive officer for combat support and combat service support.
“I have things that we are trying to push into this European Reassurance Initiative,” he said during a panel discussion at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Michigan Chapter’s Michigan Defense Exposition. The funding for those programs — which equates to $477 million — was earmarked for fiscal year 2017, but is not available because of the CR, he said.
“It’s holding up a number of things,” he said. “That’s almost every truck we make — it’s trailers, it’s water systems, it’s construction equipment — because we’re trying to stand up a fairly robust pre-positioned stock of things in Europe.”
If the budget impasse can be resolved within the next month, Davis believes his office will be able to send somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of the equipment it wants to deliver to Europe. “But the further it carries on … less and less of that ERI money” can be used, he said.
The CR could also force the Army to “juggle” where it makes investments, he said.
“We’ll continue to acquire the things in our base budget, but if this stretches there is certainly a priority to put capability into Europe, so then it creates a juggling of who gets” the money, he added.
Col. Glenn Dean, program manager for the Army’s Stryker brigade combat team at program executive office ground combat systems, said the continuing resolution is having an impact on his portfolio. It’s a “heck of a challenge to run a program as a program manager when you’re halfway through your fiscal year and you don’t actually know what your budget is,” he said. The military is prohibited from beginning new programs under a continuing resolution.
Stryker vehicles have a number of upgrade programs, and many of them are protected from the resolution because they are not new starts, he said. For example, the office is boosting the system’s lethality by adding a 30 mm cannon to some platforms. The upgrades are part of the ERI and will be finished by next year, he added.
“This will be the first new direct-fire weapon system in this family of ammunition that the Army has fielded since we put the 121 mm cannon on the Abrams tank,” he said.
While the cannon is protected from the continuing resolution, its new ammunition is not, Dean said. “Congress did me a favor. They funded the 30mm program all in FY ‘16. So I’m covered in FY ’17 — no impact from the continuing resolution,” he said. “Except the funding for combat ammunition was a new start in ’17, so if the CR does not lift next month I will not have combat ammunition when I field that vehicle next year.”
The program office is working on ways to mitigate that issue should it come to pass, he said.