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US Army's 2018 budget request stockpiles munitions, modernizes armored brigades

May 18, 2017 (Photo Credit: Abigail Meyer/U.S. Army)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s fiscal 2018 budget request funds a 1,018,000 total force and prioritizes munitions stockpiles and modernization of armored brigade combat teams.

The White House’s defense budget request is expected to be unveiled at the Pentagon on May 23.

Defense News has learned the Army’s base budget request in 2018 will be $137.1 billion. The request in 2017, the last one of the Obama administration, funded the Army at $123.1 billion.

For full FY18 budget coverage, click here.

The European Reassurance Initiative, or ERI, funding in 2018 continues to rise from previous years, with a request for $4.8 billion. The Army’s portion of that is roughly $3.2 million, according to a defense official.

The ERI, the umbrella under which funding for European support has been funneled following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, was more than quadrupled from 2016 in the 2017 request going from $789 million to $3.4 billion.

The Pentagon’s overseas contingency operations request amounts to $64.5 billion. The Army’s slice of that is $28.9 billion.

This year’s budget request release comes months late. Congress passed a 2017 omnibus spending bill May 1. The defense portion of the bill totaled $598.5 billion, which contained less than half the $30 billion defense supplemental U.S. President Donald Trump sought, but $19.9 billion more than in the last year of the Obama administration.

The Army was given a boost of $4.5 billion above what it had planned for in 2018 during the Obama administration, the official said.

Half of the funds will go toward paying to keep the Army’s force size at 1,018,000, which is the end-strength mandated in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Within that, funding will be supplied for training and equipment to support the troops, not just payroll, the official said.

While the Army would like to grow the force beyond 1,018,000, it could not shirk modernization of the force to increase the size of the total force beyond that.

So the other half of the $4.5 billion will prioritize shoring up a growing shortage of munition stockpiles, restoring what the Army has expended in various contingencies, and modernizing Desert Storm-era ABCTs, the official said.

The Army previously said it would like to spend $1.5 billion to procure enough fires capacity in five years for U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command and Korea, and would extend the life of the Army Tactical Missile System while accelerating its long-range missile replacement. This would address shortfalls in the quantity of available missiles and artillery.

The Army has 20 ABCT equipment sets, but five of the sets haven’t seen updates to its tanks or Bradley Fighting Vehicles since Desert Storm. The service in 2018 will invest heavily in the V3 Abrams tank, the A4 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and the Paladin Integrated Management howitzers.

Funding for the ABCT modernization will come from the base, ERI and OCO funding, the official said.

One of the brigade sets will go to Europe for pre-positioned stock. The Army’s pre-positioned stocks — known as APS — are set up in each combatant command to be used in a contingency operation for rapid response.

Another set will go to Fort Stewart, Georgia, to supply the Army’s 15th ABCT. The service announced late last year that it would convert the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart to an ABCT.

Full modernization of those two ABCTs will take place over 2018 and 2019.

Should the Army get more money, three sets of ABCTs in the National Guard will get modernized, but not until 2020 or 2021, the official said. All of the vehicles for the modernized ABCTs are ready for production, so they will move off the assembly lines very rapidly.

The Army will also use part of the $4.5 billion for infrastructure that will help the industrial base, the official said, particularly ammunition plants.

To produce more munitions, the ammunition plants require an upgrade.

Other infrastructure funding will cover bringing family housing overseas up to standard, which, for many years, has taken a back seat as the Army consolidated European infrastructure. Housing in Germany and Korea will take place in 2018 and housing improvements in Italy will happen in 2019, the official said.

While $4.5 billion is a decent chunk of change, the Army’s wish list for 2018 that it sent to Congress asked for roughly $10-15 billion, but that accounted for a troop increase that won’t be happening in 2018.

The Army also wanted to get facilities sustainment above 75 percent but won’t be able to fund that in 2018 nor will it be able to fund all the military construction it would like, the official noted.

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