AUSA NEWS: Wormuth Insists Army Has Role to Play in Indo-Pacific
Defense Dept. photo
The Army will play a “crucial role” in the future fight in the Indo-Pacific alongside the Air Force and Navy despite budget challenges, the secretary of the Army said Oct. 11.
Though some have thought of the Army as a “bill payer” for space, cyber and other high tech capabilities, the Army will be on the frontlines of the great power competition with China and Russia, Christine Wormuth said in a speech at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C.
Wormuth noted that there are no “easy changes” to make, but the Army needs to be ready to face China. “One pacing challenge stands out above all, China, and we must transform to meet that challenge,” she said.
“The Army has a crucial role to play as part of a joint force that can deter China, Russia, and any other foe while defending the homeland,” she said.
The Army is the only service with a smaller budget request for 2022. The Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget proposal would cut Army funding by $3.6 billion, about 2 percent decrease compared to the amount enacted for 2021.
Wormuth added that the Army faces “hard choices” in pursuing modernization to be ready for a future fight and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific. The service is conducting analyses on force structure, readiness, modernization programs and infrastructure to inform decisions about the Army’s transformation, she said.
“It's harder in a time of downward pressure on the defense budget,” she said.
The analyses will consider performance, schedule, cost and scalability for new programs, she noted.
The service's six modernization priorities and the 31 signature systems under them are being protected above all else, she said, echoing what Army officials have been saying since May. There are cross-functional teams assigned to each effort: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, the network, air-and-missile defense and soldier lethality.
However, the Army would consider altering schedules for these modernization programs as “something that gives us flexibility,” she said. In recent years, the Army has eliminated wasteful programs through its "night court" review process. The service eliminated seven programs for about $47.8 million in savings for the fiscal year 2022 budget alone.
She declined to provide more information about the analyses because it is “predecisional.” She noted that the Army is waiting to see a total budget appropriation from Congress.
“This work will not be easy, but it is needed,” she said. “And given the challenges ahead, we may have to accept some risk now to avoid greater risk in the future.”
Further complicating the Army’s calculus, Congress has not passed appropriations for the 2022 budget, she noted later in a meeting with reporters. The continuing resolution that the federal government is currently running on prevents new programs from starting across the Pentagon. “They're disruptive and inefficient and I think one of the biggest problems with the CR is that we are prohibited from having new starts in our budget,” she added.
"A few different programs” in the Army’s modernization portfolio could be disrupted, but the service will seek relief in a budget anomaly, a special request for funding that is narrowly focused, she said.
Army Chief of Staff James McConville added that the budget process delays impact the entire force.
“Timely, adequate, predictable and sustainable funding is really important for the whole enterprise to be able to meet our priorities as we go forward,” he said at the press conferfence.
Topics: Army News