WASHINGTON — As House Armed Services Subcommittee marks of the fiscal 2017 defense policy bill rolled out on Capitol Hill Tuesday, support for the recommendations of the National Commission on the Future of the Army (NCFA) is evident throughout the proposed legislation.
The NCFA, in its report released in February, recommended the Army retain four AH-64 Apache battalions in the National Guard instead of transferring all Apaches to the active force as the Army proposed over two years ago. The Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee's mark would provide funding for additional UH-60M Black Hawks, LUH-72A Lakotas and Apaches in order for the four battalions in the Guard to keep Apaches.
Also in line with NCFA recommendations, the subcommittee would provide more funding to address modernization shortfalls in the National Guard and Reserve component equipment, which could help heal the rift between the active service and the Guard that grew deeper over the past few years as the components played tug-of-war over attack helicopters and other updated equipment.
The subcommittee also wants to plus up Black Hawks and Apache buys as part of multiyear procurement contracts in order to realize additional savings.
The Army's $15.1 billion 2017 procurement request was $1.3 billion less than what was enacted in 2016, and lawmakers have already raised concern with the service over the deep cuts. Within modernization, Army aviation took the biggest hit.
The service asked for just 36 UH-60Ms, a drastic reduction to the 107 Black Hawks appropriated in 2016 and 24 fewer than it planned in 2016 to buy in 2017. The Army also requested 48 remanufactured AH-64Es, down from 64 aircraft in 2016. The service also asked for four additional Apaches within the Overseas Contingency Operations account.
The subcommittee also stresses the need to develop and field various important systems faster than planned and requests for several programs that the Army take a hard look at accelerating the process.
The Army is already taking steps to test and integrate APS for vehicles, and subcommittee members acknowledge the "strategy will allow the Army to address the threats posed by the growing proliferation of anti-tank guided missiles and rocket-propelled grenades." The committee wants the Army to look into expediting APS development and fielding. The committee also wants to see the possibility of incorporating APS on more types of vehicles.
The committee supports the movement of funds as part of the European Reassurance Initiative that would allow the service to modernize and upgrade Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles as well.
As munitions are expended in great number in the fight against the Islamic State, subcommittee lawmakers are requiring the defense secretary to develop munition strategies for each combatant command in order to identify requirements and shortfalls.
Separately, the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee's mark is seeking a completely new review of the US missile defeat policy "with respect to left- and right-of-launch ballistic missile defense, the integration of offensive and defensive forces for the defeat of ballistic missiles and the cruise missile defense of the homeland."
Lawmakers also want to withhold 50 percent of 2017 funding for the Patriot lower-tier air and missile defense capability until the Army's modernized Patriot radar would be interoperable with the ballistic missile defense system and other air and missile defense capabilities. Also, the Army chief and secretary would be required to determine whether the requirement to pursue a modernized radar is suitable for acquisition through an Army Rapid Capabilities office and would have to submit the terms of a competition for the radar that would ensure fair competition.
The Army is expected to a hold a competition for a new radar that would be incorporated into its Integrated Air and Missile Defense system in 2017. Congress has regularly withheld funding from the Patriot program as it continues to be dissatisfied with Army-provided details on its modernization strategy and cost of Patriot upgrades. The Army has yet to decide whether it upgrades the Patriot radar or buys a new state-of-the-art radar that provides 360-degree protection through a full competition.
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.