2016 Army Budget Juggles Readiness, Modernization and Force Structure
By Sarah Sicard
Unlike the past several years, the Army’s proposed fiscal year 2016 budget does not cancel any major air or ground programs. But leaders said that sequestration, which is slated to begin again that year, would threaten the service’s ability to develop a balanced force.
"One of the key components to having a formidable ground force is to achieve a balance between readiness and modernization," said Maj. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the Army's budget director.
The service requested a base budget of $126.5 billion, roughly $7 billion more than last year. The base level of funding requested is near that of fiscal year 2013, and slightly more than 2014. However, the requested level of overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding, at $21 billion, is the lowest it has been in the past eight years.
“The Army is trying to balance mid-term risks,” added Davis Welch, deputy director of the Army's budget.
The budget requests $16.1 billion for procurement. That number is up $2.2 billion from the enacted $13.9 billion in 2015. Thirty-two percent of those funds would go to aviation and 11 percent to ground maneuver programs. For operation and maintenance, the proposed budget requests $35 billion.
This year's budget "prioritizes modernization of Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook helicopter fleets in support of the Aviation Restructure Initiative," the budget proposal said. As part of the restructure plan, the Army plans to divest some of its legacy helicopter fleets, such as the OH-58 reconnaissance helicopter. Instead, a mix of AH-64E Apaches and unmanned assets will conduct those missions.
“What we need is the Apache model E to be able to do the manned-unmanned teaming effort with the UAVs,” Welch said. "So what we're doing is we’re taking the older D-model and remanufacturing them into an echo model."
"We had a long-term plan to modernize to the E-model, but it is essential that we have an E-model to be able to do the manned-unmanned teaming," he added.
The Army's AH-64E Apache program consists of a remanufacture and new build effort. The 2016 budget requests $1.38 billion to fund the configuration of 64 AH-64D aircraft to the AH-64E model.
In the final year of a five-year contract with Sikorsky, the Army intends to procure a total of 94 UH-60M Black Hawks at a proposed $1.56 billion.
The Army also expects to add 39 aircraft to its CH-47 Chinook fleet, at a cost of $1.24 billion. The cargo helicopters are being procured in a multi-year contract ending next year. The service intends to have Chinooks flying until 2060.
The Army and Marine Corps joint light tactical vehicle program, which is intended to replace the Humvee, increased its procurement quantities from 184 to 450 at an anticipated cost of $308 million. Lockheed Martin, Oshkosh Defense and AM General are currently competing for the contract, which will be awarded in July 2015.
This is the first year of low-rate initial production on the JLTV. The full-rate production doesn't kick in until 2018, Welch said, and by 2041, the Army is expected to have acquired 49,000 JLTVs.
The Army is also continuing plans to replace the MII3 armored personnel carrier with the armored multi-purpose vehicle. It has requested $230 million in research, development, testing and evaluation funding for the final prototype designs and integration of components into the AMPV chassis.
The Army has carved out 45 percent of its base budget request, or $56.3 billion, for military personnel.
If Congress implements the Army’s proposed budget, it could transition from tiered readiness resourcing to a more balanced total readiness across the force. However, should current levels continue, the budget proposal suggests that tiered readiness, wherein only nine out of 30 active component brigade combat teams are ready at any given time, would be the Army’s only option.
The Army is composed of around 510,000 troops, down from a high of 570,000, according to a Defense Department release. The base budget since 2014 has funded up to 490,000 troops. This is set to be the first year that the active component will not require OCO funding to support end-strength above that number.
Force structure will decrease to 475,000 troops by end-year 2016.
Over the past two years, the Army has been given funding above the level allowed by sequestration, however it was "still only 33 percent ready," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Feb. 2 at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing hours before the budget was released.
"The American people … expect our soldiers to be ready. … That's the one thing I really worry about," he added. "This world we have today is requiring us to do many, many things."
In an attempt to solidify, the Army will be reorganizing 30 brigade combat teams to support a more efficient and agile force, said the budget request.
When asked about using efficiency as a means to cut back, Odierno said, "There is always room in the Army for a continued efficiency… but … the [fiscal] levels we're talking about … really hinders us."