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National Defense > Blog > Posts > Outgoing Army Secretary Cites Modernization as Key Budget Concern
Outgoing Army Secretary Cites Modernization as Key Budget Concern
By Vivienne Machi

As the U.S. Army's top civilian leader 
Eric Fanning prepares to leave his post, his biggest budget concerns remain how the service will fund equipment modernization and revitalize infrastructure in the years to come, he said Jan. 13.

Fanning, the secretary of the Army, said if he were given one more dollar to spend on the service, he "wouldn't necessarily put it into force structure," he told reporters and industry members during his farewell speech hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association in Washington, D.C.

"There are other areas in the budget that concern me," he said. "Modernization is one. Infrastructure investment is another."

The Army's modernization funds have decreased 33 percent in the last decade, he said, and the strategy previously taken by the service was to "push out modernization for the next generation" by upgrading and maintaining the platforms it already had.

"That's great to get new capabilities into the hands of soldiers faster; that's bad [because] the strategy has the Army holding onto a lot of platforms beyond what the lifespan was anticipated," he said. "So there's a gap in the 2020s that I think we need to get at."

Fanning added that he remains concerned about future readiness levels as he leaves his post, but he thought the Army "had a good solid plan for readiness," notwithstanding ongoing budget instability.

"We can definitely fix some holes that we have with more force structure, but if you're going to grow the Army, you have to do it smartly," he said. "We're certainly a people-based force and so the size of the Army … is an important indicator of our capability. But it's not the only indicator and if you don't do it smartly, you can grow yourself into a less capable Army."

And while he may have one foot out the door, he is one of the few leaders who will be leaving when the incoming administration arrives, he noted.

"It's important to remember, in an Army of 1.4 million people in and out of the uniform, fewer than 20 of them are political appointees," he said. "There is a great continuity in our national security, and Army's definitely up to the task."

Fanning also said he is not worried that the Army's rapid capabilities office — which was stood up last August — would be eliminated by the new administration.

"It's focused on the emerging requirements of commanders in the field, it's not something we're making up, it's not pet projects," he said, adding that the office was especially important for developing capabilities — like electronic warfare, long-range fire, survivability and navigation — to maintain a technological edge against near-peer competitors like Russia.

"There's a pretty strong consensus around us needing to push a little bit more, not because our overmatch is gone, but because it's not what we want it to be," he said. "We don't ever want a fair fight."

The RCO will continue to be important to supply critical technology in a timely manner, he added. "We're not going to build a helicopter in the RCO, but there might be some technology in the next-generation helicopter we need, that we need to push out faster."

Photo: NDIA


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