RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Army R&D Spending Geared Toward a ‘Big War’
The Army’s future research-and-development spending will be focused on technologies needed to fight a large-scale conflict against advanced adversaries such as Russia, according to defense budget experts.
After more than a decade of focusing on counterinsurgency needs, the Army is now preparing for “the big war,” Robert Levinson, senior defense analyst with Bloomberg Government, said during a recent briefing for industry and media.
Cameron Leuthy, senior budget analyst with Bloomberg Government, said the Army’s future years defense program plan demonstrates this trend.
The service’s research development, test and evaluation budget is projected to increase 25 percent between fiscal years 2017 and 2022, to $10.24 billion. Priorities include air and missile defense, cybersecurity, electronic warfare, high-energy lasers, advanced munitions, active protective systems and future vertical lift helicopter technology, according to Bloomberg Government slides.
Analysts see “continued drive in that direction … for the big state-on-state kind of conflict that the Army needs to deter,” Levinson said.
Under the service’s five-year plan, from fiscal years 2018 to 2022, funding for advanced aviation development would increase 1,234 percent, to $173.5 million; armored systems modernization would grow 368 percent, to $133.2 million; electronic warfare development would jump 24 percent to $21.1 million; and lower-tier missile defense capabilities would rise 85 percent, to $65.3 million, Levinson and Leuthy calculated.
The service is looking for leap-ahead capabilities, Leuthy said.
The Army plans to invest a disproportionate amount on science and technology efforts relative to the other services, he noted. Spending on basic, applied and advanced technology development would constitute 25 percent of the Army’s research budget in fiscal year 2018, compared with 12 percent for the Navy and just 7 percent for the Air Force.
“They’re really looking down the road,” Levinson said. “They’re investing their RDT&E to get to those technological breakthroughs that will allow them to create a program of record that’s … going to give them a leap in capability.”
Army leaders recently designated the next-generation combat vehicle, which could someday replace the Abrams tank and Bradley fighting vehicle, as their second highest modernization priority.
“I think what you’re going to see is investments in … automotive technology, composite material technology, alternate weapon systems that could be used on the future ground vehicle,” Leuthy said.
“But you’re not going to see a program of record … over the FYDP. It’s going to be early stage R&D.”
Waiting until leap-ahead technology is ready before going full-bore after a new tank would be wise, Levinson said.
“The Army we think is being smart in saying, ‘Let’s not invest in a brand new program that’s not going to give us a whole lot of new capability,’” he said.