Updated: This story has been updated to reflect additional information from a briefing with the Army's budget director, Maj. Gen. Thomas Horlander, at the Pentagon, following the release of budget materials.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is stretched across the globe conducting missions to include destroying the Islamic State, supporting Afghan Security Forces and deterring North Korea and Russia and its needs $166 billion in fiscal year 2018 to continue those operations with a force of over a million soldiers while preparing for the future.
Defense News first reported last week that some major efforts include shoring up munition stockpiles that have been expended in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, modernizing armored brigade combat teams and beefing up pre-positioned stocks in Europe as the Army continues playing a large role in deterring Russian aggression.
The Army's base budget is $137.2 billion, up from $130.3 billion enacted in fiscal 2017. It's overseas contingency operations (OCO) budget is $28.9 billion; a slight increase over last year's $28 billion. Additional funding for the service comes from the European Reassurance Initiative, or ERI, funding. The ERI budget request totals $4.8 billion of which the Army's portion is $3.2 billion.
Here’s a breakdown of the Army’s budget highlights:
Operation and Maintenance
The budget request includes $65.6 billion for operations and maintenance (O&M), which accounts for sustaining the Army’s end strength and to prepare it to operate in major combat operations.
The Army also plans to create two Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) "as a tool for combatant commanders to shape their areas of responsibility in ways that deter and prevent conflict and set the theater to enable the United States and its allies and partners to prevail if conflict becomes necessary," an overview of the budget reads.
SFABs will serve a dual-purpose as day-to-day experts to COCOM commanders to train, advise and assist partner nations and will also serve as the framework of a brigade combat team that can rapidly expand should the need arise, according to the Army.
According to Maj. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the Army's budget director, the SFABs are made up of a little over 1,000 people and the majority of the cost to create them comes from pay and entitlements rather than from equipping them. Whether the Army plans to establish any additional SFABs in years beyond 2018 has yet to be determined and will be based on the Army's strategic readiness review due out later this summer.
The Army will continue to fund the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea within the O&M account.
The service also plans to double Army National Guard Combat Training Center rotations from two to four, according to the overview.
The Army wants to convert one infantry brigade combat team to an armored brigade combat team (ABCT), maintain 31 active component brigade combat teams (BCTs) and retain 11 combat aviation brigades.
The 2018 budget request shows that the Army’s priorities when it comes to modernization have not changed in recent years. The service has said it must prepare to go up against more near-peer adversaries after years of fighting against threats with capabilities inferior to U.S. military might.
The service wants to spend $26.8 billion focusing on improving various capabilities from air-and-missile defense to combat vehicle modernization to long-range precisions fires and electronic warfare.
The Army wants funding to develop its Integrated Air and Missile Defense system to include high-energy laser development and cybersecurity while continuing to modernize its Patriot AMD system and upgrade its missiles.
The service is asking for an increase in funding for Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and Army Tactical Missile Systems as well as its staple — Hellfire missiles.
New start efforts include procurement of the Army's Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle and Paladin Integrated Management improvements "to increase mobility and lethality of the brigade combat teams," according to the overview.
PIM and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle’s low-rate initial production will ramp up in 2018 as well.
A defense official told Defense News last week that the Army plans to start modernizing ABCT equipment sets dating back to Desert Storm by investing heavily in V3 Abrams, A4 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the AMPV, the JLTV and the PIM howitzers.
Funding for ABCT modernization will come from the base, ERI and OCO accounts, the official said.
One of the brigade sets will go to Europe for prepositioned stock and another 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.
The Army also wants to invest in Active Protection Systems for both air and vehicle platforms.
Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing and EW are among other Army Rapid Capabilities Office priorities that would receive funding should the request be approved by Congress.
The Army will continue to fund Future Vertical Lift — its plan to procure a new family of vertical-lift aircraft in the 2030s — and its Improved Turbine Engine Program. ITEP is meant to replace all Black Hawk and Apache engines.
While missiles and weapons and tracked combat vehicles are seeing an increase in 2018 over 2017, the Army’s aircraft budget request dropped by $642 million from $5.2 billion enacted in 2017 to $4.6 billion. Aviation still accounts for 26 percent of the service’s procurement budget.
The service would buy 13 new build AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 50 remanufactured versions and six remanufactured CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters. The Army also wants to buy 48 UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters.
The Army wants $3 billion for missile procurement in 2018. In 2017 it received $2.7 billion.
The service plans to continue low-rate initial production of its Patriot Missile Segment Enhanced Missile with 93 additional missiles and will buy 3,925 Hellfire II missiles. A total of 6,000 Alternative Warhead Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System rockets would be produced that would max out production capacity, according to the budget documents.
The Army would also invest in 174 counterfire radar systems that also meets a service procurement objective.
The service would upgrade 56 M1A1 Abrams tanks to the M1A2 system enhancement package v3 variant and would procure 71 PIM systems, 71 self-propelled howitzers and 71 Carrier, Ammunition, Tracked for $772 million.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is moving into LRIP and the 2018 request reflects the large uptick in procurement. The Army wants $804 million to buy 2,110 vehicles. The JLTV program will reach Initial Operational Capability in 2018.
In addition to the aviation account, the Army’s 2018 budget request for ammunition as well as tactical and support vehicles is also less than what was enacted in 2017.
The Army’s funding for its network increased slightly by $52 million. Among major programs within the network, the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical is the only program to see a decrease, falling from $552 million approved in 2017 to $420 million requested in 2018.
The Army wants $1.3 billion for military construction in 2018 over the $1 billion allocated in 2017. The 137 projects include continuing the construction of the Command and Control/Operations facilities at Fort Shaftner, Hawaii, infrastructure consolidation in Germany and fielding Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft systems in Korea. The National Guard and Reserve would also get new ranges, training and maintenance facilities should the request be approved by Congress.
Horlander noted the MILCON funding was "markedly more than last year" but remains at a "comparatively low level" than in the recent past. "It's still one of the smallest MILCON budgets in recent years," he added.
The Army is boosting its base realignment and closure activities, requesting $58 million in 2018 over the $29 million enacted in 2017. Horlander said the funding covered environmental clean up and restoration of previously "BRAC-ed" locations.
Other infrastructure funding -- $183 million -- 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 defense official said.
The Army is requesting an additional $8 billion in 2018 for OCO funds. A total of $2.8 billion would pay for military personnel, $16.3 billion would cover operations and maintenance while and additional $2.9 billion would pay for research, development and acquisition related to operations abroad.
The Army wants $1.8 billion for the counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria train and equip mission and $4.9 billion for the Afghan Security Forces Fund.
While the Army received $715 million in 2016 and $290 million in 2017 for the Iraq train and equip fund it has reallocated those funds into the counter-Islamic State train and equip mission funds, Horlander said.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.