By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Feb. 3, 2015) — “Within our culture, we will always strive to meet any requirement from the combatant commander,” said the assistant deputy chief of staff of the Army, G-3/5/7.
“The Army actively accomplishes those missions, which gives an impression that everything is fine and that there are no impacts to an Army that’s still ready to do the business the nation requires,” Maj. Gen. Gary Cheek said.
But “as the Army’s size and capacity gets smaller, and if demands stay the same or get greater, it will take a larger portion of the Army to accomplish those missions, which we will continue to do,” he said, referring to an increase in risk as the budget for manning, equipping and training the Army declines.
Cheek and other senior Army budget leaders addressed the 2016 Army budget during a Pentagon media roundtable, Feb. 3.
The 2016 budget will “help us mitigate that risk,” Cheek said.
If sequestration were to return in 2016, that would take a nearly $6 billion chunk out of the Army’s $126.5 billion fiscal 2016 budget request, said Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Horlander, director of the Army budget.
And, if reforms outlined by the recently released Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission report to Congress are not enacted, that would further impact every component of the Army’s budget, Horlander said.
A third impact — not as immediate as sequestration or entitlement reform — would come from a future decision on base realignment and closure.
Another round of Defense Base Closure and Realignment, also known as BRAC, is necessary because the Army maintains upwards of 160 million square feet of excess facility space, which is not being utilized, said Davis Welch, deputy director of the Army budget. That extra capacity requires electricity, plumbing, heating, cooling and other attention, which eats into the budget.
PUTTING A FACE TO READINESS
Cheek provided an example of how the absence of training dollars can affect readiness, not just for one year, but for decades.
A captain who is a company commander needs command experience that is both realistic and challenging, Cheek said. In the absence of combat, that experience is best acquired by leading a company through a rotation at one of the Army’s combat training centers.
A captain is usually in command of a company for two years or less, so if that experience isn’t acquired in short order, “it’s gone forever,” Cheek said, explaining that the captain would then become a major and lead a battalion and perhaps stay in the Army for another 10, 15, 20 or even 30 years — but would have a gap in their leadership experience.
“Every leader has gaps in experience but we want to minimize those gaps,” Cheek said. That’s why “even budget decisions made in a single year will have a lasting impact on the Army.”
Besides the captain, his entire company, and the battalion and brigade Soldiers above him would also lose those training opportunities and the Army would just have to hope they wouldn’t be called upon to deploy, Cheek said.
Typically, about nine brigade combat teams are engaged in operations around the world, Cheek said, while the remainder are at home station recovering or preparing for deployments. Should one of those brigade combat teams, or BCTs, at home station miss a combat training center rotation or home-station training opportunity and be called upon to deploy because of some unanticipated large-scale event, they would be put more at risk going into harm’s way.
Incidentally, renewed sequestration in 2016 would result in the number of BCTs dropping down to about 30, he said.
Additionally, by 2017, the number of combat aviation brigades could be expected to drop from 13 to 10, Cheek said.
Another impact on readiness and budget will be determined by next year’s findings of the Commission on the Structure of the Army. The commission’s report, Cheek said, would have a bearing on the Army’s Aviation Restructuring Initiative, or ARI, which calls for the Army National Guard transferring Apache helicopters to active-duty units, while active-duty units transfer Black Hawk helicopters to Guard units.
Another component of ARI, he said, is divesting the oldest of Army aircraft, while investing the savings into aircraft that are more suited to future missions and which are more easily maintained.
Welch said the Army is doing things now with its current fleet of helicopters to extend their useful lives and will continue to invest in incremental improvements just as it has been doing with its ground systems.
One of the improvements the Army is investing in is the Improved Turbine Engine Program, also known as ITEP, designed to make aircraft more powerful and fuel efficient, said Maj. Gen. Robert Dyess, director of Army Force Development, G-8. He said ITEP could also become relevant for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program.
Regarding ground systems, the Army is investing in upgrades to its fleet of tanks, Strykers, and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Dyess said.
Progress with the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program “looks pretty solid,” Dyess said. “We’re happy with the competition, which is good for the Army.”
A fleet of vehicles known as the “Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles,” or FMVT, is also receiving investments, he said. The FMVT program produces vehicles that are able to carry heavy payloads, and they are becoming more in demand.
Funding for the MIM-104 Patriot missile program, the Army’s surface-to-air missile, is also on track and will continue to be an important program, not just for the Army but also for the combatant commander’s joint force, Dyess said.
Welch said the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical is becoming increasingly important to battlefield networks and it is being budgeted. He said three brigades and a division headquarters will be fitted with WIN-T systems.
Lastly, Army investment in cyber capabilities is now split between the intelligence and mission command portfolios.
Although cyber is vital, there’s not a lot of investment at this time, Dyess said. The Army is pausing its investments as the cyber community defines its procurement requirements. “We’re on the early side” of that, he said.
While the dollar amount in cyber will grow over time, there’s still a sizable increase in cyber investments reflected in the 2016 budget, Welch said, meaning there is a 31 percent increase in procurement and 92 percent increase in research, development, testing and engineering.
Another reason for the pause, Cheek said, is to allow for statutory requirements to catch up to intelligence, communications and cyber capabilities. “We have to weave those to allow statutory requirements to stay aligned and yet still be effective.”
Besides that, the Army is now deciding where to station all the new gear and what the training requirements will be, Cheek said. Getting it right is very important but it’s also “very complicated.”