JUST IN: Army Leaders Expected to Face Balancing Act with 2022 Budget
Army photo by Sgt. Brian Chaney
With President Joe Biden's proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 expected to be released in the next few weeks, Army leaders are warning that it will be challenging to balance readiness and modernization alongside a declining or flat budget.
The service will prioritize maintaining its hard-earned gains in readiness while trying to tackle its largest modernization campaign in 40 years, said Acting Secretary of the Army John Whitley. Christine Wormuth, a former senior Pentagon official, has been nominated by Biden to become the next secretary of the Army, if confirmed by the Senate.
“We're going to try to protect readiness at all costs,” Whitley said at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security April 27. Likewise, “we're going to try to protect as much of modernization as we can at all costs but there's not a lot of room to maneuver in the Army budget.”
The service has been working to rebuild readiness and is in the beginning stages of a “successful” modernization program, he said. Its six top priorities — which are being spearheaded by Army Futures Command — include: long-range fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air-and-missile defense and soldier lethality.
“The Army is in a very good place," Whitley said. However, "there is a tremendous amount of risk in the Army's budget today."
The Biden administration dropped a “skinny” budget earlier this month that outlined a $715 billion Defense Department budget, a 1.6 percent increase over 2021. The full budget is expected to be released in May or June.
The Army has already trimmed its budget by cutting unneeded programs through reviews known as “Night Court," he said. The service's budget for fiscal year 2021 is approximately $178 billion.
The Army has freed up more than $39 billion to reinvest in its top modernization efforts and has cut more programs in the fiscal 2022 cycle, Whitley said. He declined to discuss the 2022 cuts because they are still “pre-decisional.”
“We took risk in the budget to get to where we are today,” he said. “There is not a lot of excess that can be used.”
There may be tension in convincing Congress to divest from legacy systems, Whitley said. But ultimately, lawmakers are interested in modernizing the Army, he said.
“Congress understands the needs to realign to near peer competitors and what that means for the price of equipment we need to field for our soldiers,” he said. “We've found that if you have the dialogue, and you take the analysis over and you make the arguments, you can prevail in many of those cases”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said his main concern for the budget is increasing the number of troops to reduce stress from deployments.
“What we're trying to do is find and produce the best Army we can with the resources that we're going to get,” he said.
During an event hosted by the Defense Writers Group last month, McConville said he was reluctant to fund modernization at the expense of end strength.
“When we talk about end strength, I have concerns about cutting end strength because of what I see the stress [is] in the force right now," McConville told reporters.
If the service is going to reduce end strength it will have to “take a hard look” at where the cuts will come from, he noted.
— Additional reporting by Mandy Mayfield
Topics: Army News