WASHINGTON — The Army's report on which National Commission on the Future of the Army recommendations it plans to implement and which ones it plans to reject is expected to hit the defense secretary's desk next week, the Army chief of staff said.
The NCFA — established by Congress to study the future force and structure — delivered its 63 comprehensive recommendations to Congress at the end of January and the Army has been reviewing these and the reasoning behind them since the release.
"We've done a very rigorous study of the 63 recommendations," Gen. Mark Milley said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Army budget Thursday.
The plan now, Milley said, is to submit the report — signed by active, National Guard and Reserve leadership — to Defense Secretary Ash Carter on April 15. Following that the report will be sent to Congress.
The Army believes there are about 50 recommendations that are "achievable at relatively little to no cost or we have already started implementing them," Milley said.
However, "there is one I absolutely disagree with," he said. "We recommend no."
Milley did not say what that recommendation was during the hearing, but stated in early March at a House Defense Appropriations subcommittee hearing that cutting an infantry brigade combat team from the active Army was a "bad trade-off."
The commission recommended that the Army consider divesting two regular Army IBCTs to find the manpower to address other shortfalls in places like short-range air defense, other missile defense, tactical mobility and the military police.
The commission's chair, retired Army Gen. Carter Ham, said prior to the report's release that he suspected the recommendation would get push-back.
Teasing out what might be found in the report, Milley said, "There's about nine or 10 others that do incur some or significant cost in terms of dollars and we are analyzing that. ... How would we pay for them, how would we execute and implement those recommendations."
The Army's wish list sent to Congress of additional funding that it couldn't include in its fiscal 2017 budget request indicates which recommendations might fit in this category.
The service asks for $62.1 million to retain four attack battalions in the Guard and notes that would require an additional 72 AH-64 Apaches. If funded, it would resolve a dispute between the active Army and the Army National Guard over where Apache helicopters should reside in the force.
The commission recommended the Army keep four such battalions in the Guard while the Army had wanted to shift all Apaches from the Guard and into the active force as part of a major aviation restructure initiative that also retired the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, an armed reconnaissance helicopter.
The wish list also asks for $305.4 million to retain an 11th Combat Aviation Brigade. The funding would pay for manning and training costs that enable retaining the 11th CAB. The Army had originally planned to reduce its force down to 10 CABs. The commission recommended the Army have 11 CABs and keep that 11th CAB forward-stationed in South Korea.
In order to heal the Army-Guard rift created over the Apache helicopter tug-of-war — but also to stress the Army is a "total Army," consisting of active, Guard and Reserve components — the service lists the need for $70 million to maintain National Guard readiness from the platoon to company levels and would prepare Guard units to attend Combat Training Center rotations in future years.
The commission recommended taking steps in several areas to bring the three Army components together and to provide improved training and equipment to reserve forces that will go to fight with active units when called up.
Milley said Thursday the 17 LUH-72A Lakotas on the wish list was also related directly to NCFA recommendations. The extra Lakotas would go into the training fleet at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and would free up combat aircraft, namely AH-64s needed to fill the Kiowa Warrior gap.
The Army chief also indicated at the hearing that he "personally" is more in a favor of a rotational armored brigade combat team in Europe as opposed to the commission's recommendation to establish a forward-stationed ABCT there.
Milley explained there are advantages and disadvantages to both a forward-stationed unit and a rotational one.
For one, re-establishing a forward-stationed ABCT in Europe after the Army previously cut its infrastructure there "would be pretty costly to rebuild" for families that would come along with the soldiers stationed in the region, according to Milley.
"But also important is that when a unit rotates they have a sole focus, which is to train and be prepared to close within and destroy the enemy," he said. "There are no families there, so you're focused, you are mission-focused."
In terms of the strategic effect to deter Russian aggression in Europe, back-to-back rotational brigade deployments of nine months gets the same effect of permanency without the cost, Milley said. "Personally, I think the advantages of rotational outweigh the disadvantages."
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.