Army Pushes to Fund Modernization Priorities in Fiscal Year 2019

By Connie Lee
M1A1 Abrams tank

Photo: Defense Dept.

The Army’s total $182 billion budget request for fiscal year 2019 puts emphasis on funding its top modernization priorities while increasing readiness, documents show.  

In total, this would be about 9 percent over the Army’s total request for fiscal year 2018, which was $166.1 billion.

 “The Army did surprisingly well,” said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, pointing out that “their budget goes up the same as the department’s [budget].”

Notably, the request would support a total end strength of 1,030,500 soldiers by funding 487,500 soldiers in the active component and 543,000 in the reserve components with $60.6 billion. The fiscal year 2018 request accounts for a total 1,018,000 soldiers.

“It’s not 540,000, which is what the president has talked about, but I think 495,000 is where the Army would like to be— I think that’s where they would be comfortable,” he said of the active component. “They appear to be filling out the units that they already have, which I think is a very good thing.” While the reserve component does not see a large end strength increase, the budget request provides for additional National Training Center rotations and equipment.   

“I think [the reserve components are] just having a hard time holding their end strength,” he said.

Additionally, the service’s modernization funds would reflect increases in research, development and engineering funds for mobile protected firepower, combat vehicle prototyping, long-range precision fires, and short-range air defense, according to the documents.

Mobile Protected Firepower is a ground vehicle intended to provide infantry brigade combat teams with long-range, precision direct fire capabilities. The service wants to use $393.6 million of research, development and engineering funds for the program and issue two engineering, manufacturing and development contracts in fiscal year 2019. The request for last year included $36.2 million in the base budget for the program, according to budget justification documents.

The budget request also reflects the Army’s intent to ramp up its effort for the next generation combat vehicle. The fiscal year 2019 budget request for the effort is $119.4 million, which is $86.7 million greater than last year’s base budget request for the project. The Army has long been citing its need to develop a new combat vehicle while focusing on incremental upgrades for its legacy systems.

Officials are pushing to fund modernization with the budget request to set itself up for its upcoming cross functional teams, Maj. Gen. Paul A. Chamberlain, Army budget director told reporters Feb. 12. As the service works on standing up its new Futures Command, which will have jurisdiction of the CFTs, many of these modernization efforts are being pursued with research-and-development funds or science and technology funds rather than procurement money.  

“As these S&T funds mature, they will provide technology options for the cross functional teams,” he said.  They could eventually lead to programs of record, he added.  

Last year, the service identified six modernization priorities, which include: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, the network, air-and-missile defense and soldier lethality. In the draft spending plan for 2019 to 2023, the Army shifted about $1 billion in science and technology funds.

However, although there is a “big chunk of money that goes into modernization,” the Army also appears to be continuing its trend of buying “new versions of equipment that’s already out there,” Cancian said.  

For instance, the service wants $1.5 billion for its initiative to upgrade M1A1 Abrams tanks to the M1A2 configuration, documents show. This would be used to upgrade 135 systems.

Additionally, the service wants $1.3 billion to procure 3,390 joint light tactical vehicles, a system poised to replace many of the Army’s current Humvees.

Cancian also pointed out the lack of new procurement programs in the budget request, noting that many efforts are in a “primordial soup” of research and development.  “Stuff is happening in there, but nothing has crawled out yet,” he said.

“They’re still clearly thinking about what they’re going to do,” he said. “What they’re going to do as a next generation of Army modernization. So you don’t see that yet.” Rather, the service may push out new procurement programs in fiscal year 2020, he noted.

Topics: Army News, Budget, Defense Department

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