Editor’s Note: This story, first published at 1:30 p.m., was updated to include comments from the Army's budget briefing at the Pentagon after the initial budget request release.
This story has been updated to correct incorrect information provided by the Army in a budget document referring to the AN/TPQ-53 radar as the Q-36. The Q-53 is replacing the Q-36 radar and is the system being procured.
WASHINGTON — As expected, the Army’s fiscal year 2017 budget request of $148 billion pivots the Army to Europe but also sacrifices some modernization efforts, cutting mainly from the aviation procurement account while bolstering vehicle spending, according to official budget documents.
The Army’s base budget request is $125 billion with an additional overseas contingency operations (OCO) account of $23 billion.
Yet, if the Army were to shift $2 billion into the OCO account to comply with the two-year bipartisan budget deal reached in Congress in 2015, the base would come to $123 billion while OCO would total $25 billion. Some of the official documents show those numbers instead.
The amount requested in the fiscal 2017 base budget is $1.4 billion less than the amount enacted in fiscal 2016, the documents show. Yet, the total budget including OCO is the same in 2017 as what was enacted in 2016.
The fiscal 2017 budget request seeks to preserve the Army’s planned end-strength and readiness.
The Army will continue to reduce its force from 475,000 active soldiers in fiscal 2016 to 460,000 in fiscal 2017 with a plan to reduce the structure by another 10,000 in fiscal 2018. The National Guard will fall from 342,000 to 335,000 in fiscal 2017 with no further reductions planned beyond that. The Army Reserve will fall from 198,000 to 195,000 as planned.
As Defense News reported Feb. 6, the service will see a big ramp-up in OCO funding for Europe as part of an effort to deter Russia’s military aggression in Eastern Europe and to bolster allies’ defense capabilities.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter revealed Feb. 2 that Obama is requesting $3.4 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), the umbrella under which funding for European support has been funneled following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014. The request is more than four times what has was allocated in 2016.
And a large chunk of that funding — $2.8 billion — will belong to the Army and will reside in the OCO account. A small amount of funding in the base budget was pushed into OCO for Europe, a defense official told Defense News last week.
The $2.8 billion is just the beginning, the official noted. “What you are seeing is just a down-payment for the US commitment to securing Europe and getting back in.”
The ERI funding “constitutes much of the growth in the Army’s OCO request,” Maj. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the Army’s budget director, said Tuesday at a Pentagon budget briefing.
According to a chart in the budget documents, $727 million will go toward “increased presence” in Europe while $50 million will fund building “partner capacity.” A total of $89 million will pay for additional bilateral and multilateral exercises and training. The biggest chunk of the funding – a total of $2 billion – is for “setting conditions.”
According to a defense official, of the $2.8 billion, $1 billion will go toward putting a "heel-to-toe" armored brigade combat team (ABCT) in theater, so from now on, there will be a Stryker brigade, an infantry brigade and an armored brigade in Europe 24/7 on a rotational basis. Currently, the armored brigade is only in Europe for a couple of months out of the year, the official explained.
As a result, US European Command will look a lot like US Central Command; it will be treated like a long-term contingency operation with long-term commitments to funding.
The funding will also cover more aviation in theater and more partner engagements such as training exercises, but the ABCT will use the biggest portion of the money, the official said.
“There will be a greater troop presence [in Europe],” because of the Army’s plan to keep consistent rotational forces, Horlander said. The Army has about 34,000 soldiers stationed in the US European Command area of operations.
A total of $1.8 billion of the ERI funding will cover putting pre-positioned equipment to include an entire ABCT static set of equipment, Horlander said, as well as some other enablers.
Some of the Army’s biggest budget cuts in fiscal 2017 are modernization and facilities. The move comes at no surprise since the service needed to preserve its end-strength numbers and readiness, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s biggest priority, so what is left vulnerable for cuts is modernization.
For instance, the facilities budget is taking a $294 million cut after already taking hits in the last few budget cycles. In fiscal 2014 the Army’s total facilities budget was $2.6 billion and by fiscal 2016 had fallen to $1.6 billion.
The Army, in the request, can only afford to fund 67 percent of facilities sustainment required in fiscal 2017, according to Horlander.
The Army’s procurement request in fiscal 2017 of $15.1 billion is $1.3 billion less than what was enacted in fiscal 2016.
Within modernization, Army aviation is taking the biggest punch. “We took a lot of risk in aviation programs,” the defense official said, adding there was enough head-room in aviation procurement that the Army could slow down its pace to buy some aircraft at minimum rates.
In the fiscal 2017 budget request, the Army is asking for just 36 UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters, a drastic reduction to the 107 Black Hawks appropriated in 2016. This amounts to nine fewer than the Army wanted for 2017 as indicated in its fiscal 2016 request. The Army needs $976.1 million to buy the aircraft in the first year of a follow-on, five-year contract with Sikorsky but also funds the continued development of UH-60L digital upgrades.
The Army is requesting 48 remanufactured AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. It received 64 aircraft in fiscal 2016. The service is also asking for four additional aircraft within the OCO account. The Army is seeking to buy 24 fewer Black Hawks than it planned in 2016 to buy in fiscal 2017.
The budget requests sets up both the Black Hawk and Apache programs for five-year contracts starting in fiscal 2017. The Army plans to buy 275 Apache E-models for $5.6 billion over the course of five years starting in fiscal 2017, marking the helicopter program’s first multiyear contract.
The Army would also buy less CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters asking for 22 in the fiscal 2017 request after receiving funds for 39 helicopters in fiscal 2016. Fiscal 2017 marks the last year of a five-year contract with Boeing.
While Army aviation took hits, vehicles funding is on the rise in the request.
The service wants $480 million to fund M1 Abrams Tank next-evolution armor packages for 60 vehicles, 15 more than last year.
The Army would like to buy six more Paladin Integrated Management self-propelled howitzers than the 30 it received last year and an additional 12 vehicles are included in the OCO account. A full rate production decision is expected in January 2017.
The Army also wants to upgrade more Stryker armored personnel carriers. The plan is to upgrade 123 in fiscal 2017. The service funded 92 in fiscal 2016. The service has decided to prioritize upgrading Strykers with double-v hulls (DVH) and will make them more lethal.
In 2016 that meant adding a 30mm cannon on half of them and Javelin anti-tank missiles on the rest, along with machine guns. As the Army looks to boost operations in Europe, the Stryker upgrades have been called a necessity.
A total of $591 million in funding in 2017 would support fielding the third Stryker DVH brigade set and procures 123 of the fourth DVH set with engineering change proposals among other upgrades.
Bradley infantry fighting vehicles are also getting a boost. The Army wants to modernize 337 of the vehicles in fiscal 2017, 97 more than was funded last year.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is funded as planned with the Army requesting $588 million to build 1,828 low-rate initial production vehicles in 2017. It was funded to build 686 in 2016. The money would also support continued product qualification testing as the Army gears up to support an Initial Operational Capability scheduled in fiscal 2018.
While the service is planning to preserve its JLTV funding, the Marine Corps is asking for 77 fewer JLTVs in fiscal 2017 than it had planned for this year when requesting its fiscal 2016 budget, according to a document shown Tuesday at a Pentagon briefing. The plan is to push procurement of those vehicles into future years.
The Army is also planning to start procuring the battle command systems for its future Integrated Air and Missile Defense System, requesting to build 44 in fiscal 2017.
The Army will increase the amount of AN/TPQ-53 Counterfire Radars it plans to buy in 2017. In fiscal 2016 the service received funding for 13 systems and in fiscal 2017 it wants to build 23.
Research, Development, Test & Evaluation
The RDT&E account dropped slightly in fiscal 2017 compared to fiscal 2016 with a total of $7.5 billion committed to making key investments in science and technology efforts related to combat vehicle and automotive technology, the Joint Multi-Role Helicopter demonstration program and High Energy Lasers.
Funding in 2017 also starts 17 “modest” new programs including a Ground Mobility Vehicle program and a Mobile Protected Firepower programs in line with the Army’s new combat vehicle modernization strategy that seeks to increase BCT mobility and lethality.
No programs were terminated in the budget request, Horlander added.
The Army expects to spend money in major engineering and development efforts related to combat vehicles, air and missile defense, aircraft improvement programs, Assured Position, Navigation and Timing, and Cyber operations.
Operations and Maintenance
The Army’s O&M account of $35.4 billion is up from the enacted fiscal 2016 levels of $34.2 billion. The Army is also requesting an additional $13.7 billion in OCO funding for O&M.
This is the only account that saw growth in the Army’s budget request this fiscal year in order to generate needed readiness.
The O&M request, “seeks to resource more balanced readiness across the force instead of the tiered readiness of previous years where only approximately one-third of the Army’s brigade combat teams were ready for contingency force operations,” Horlander said. “Consistent with both the current and future threat environments, the Army’s readiness goals are to have two-thirds of its regular Army forces ready at any one time.”
The funding will cover 19 Combat Training Center rotations, 17 Decisive Action and two Combination Decisive Action/Mission Rehearsal Exercises for the active Army.
The money will support 30 brigade combat teams, convert one Stryker BCT to an Infantry BCT and “enhances regional engagements through rotational forces and multinational exercises,” according to the documents.
The budget request increases depot maintenance funding and boosts Army prepositioned stocks around the world.
The Army National Guard’s $6.9 billion O&M funding request includes support for 26 BCTs and continues to restore its readiness.