Army Taking ‘Hard Look’ at Readiness Spending
Army photo by Maj. Robert Fellingham,
The Army is looking for ways to control training expenditures and personnel costs as it pushes forward with modernization, Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said recently.
Modernization, readiness and end-strength/force-structure are the three “big resource buckets” where the service invests the bulk of its funding, he noted during remarks at the Global Force Next conference.
“We must modernize,” McConville said. “I owe it to my successors that I have the Army on a good path to transformation.”
When it comes to readiness, “we’re taking a hard look at how we go after the funds” to find efficiencies, he said. That could include focusing more on small unit training.
“That’s actually less expensive” than higher level training, he explained. “We might be able to be more efficient with the money that we spend on readiness.”
The Army’s budget for fiscal year 2021 is approximately $178 billion. About $45 billion is going toward personnel. To control costs, end strength will likely remain at around 485,000 active duty soldiers in coming years, McConville said.
“We’re probably going to flatten out … where we are right now,” he said. “We really don’t want to make it any smaller. We would like to make it bigger, but what we have to do is prioritize.”
A recent report by the American Enterprise Institute think tank, “Defense Budget Lessons,” by analysts Elaine McCusker and John Ferrari, said the military should avoid cutting end strength to free up money for modernization.
The idea that “if we need people for a future war, we will be able to recruit them” is a flawed assumption, they said, because ramping up in an emergency is not as viable as it was in the past.
“Given the forces’ high-tech nature and specialization, our personnel must be developed and trained over time,” they said.
If forced to choose, it would be better to cut force structure than people, otherwise the Pentagon risks creating a “hollow force” like the Army had in the 1970s after the Vietnam War, according to McCusker and Ferrari.
When it comes to preserving readiness, training should take priority over sustainment if budgets are tight, they said.
“If tough choices are required, one can defer longer-term maintenance on vehicles for a few years or allow for a slow decay of facilities yet still be capable of fighting. But we cannot have untrained leaders and personnel,” they said. “The effects are corrosive and deadly.”