WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army will get funding to address some of the major capability gaps it has recently identified and will be able to execute some of the more pricey recommendations from the National Commission on the Future of the Army, all of which appeared on two wish lists it sent to Congress in 2017 consisting of desired additional funding it couldn't include in its budget request.
Congress passed a $593 billion bipartisan defense spending bill Thursday that contains less than half the $30 billion defense supplemental President Donald Trump sought.
The amount of funding that appears to meet some of the Army’s wish list items amounts to well over a $1 billion.
The wish lists are formally called "unfunded requirements lists" and are meant to help guide Congress in considering what additional funding it might give to the services as it hashes out its appropriations.
The first wish list
In its first list, submitted shortly after the budget request was released in February last year, the Army asked for roughly $7.5 billion to cover primarily aviation procurement and modernization, force management, training and military construction.
A good part of the Army’s first wish list included funding to carry out major recommendations made by the NCFA. The commission was appointed by Congress and the White House to examine the service's structure and policies relating to its size and force mix between the active, Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.
In the first wish list, the Army asked for $759.9 million for Army modernization that included five more AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, 17 more LUH-72A Lakotas and 24 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
The appropriations bill provides funding for five Apache new-build helicopters for $190 million and another $71.8 million advanced procurement dollars in the supplemental budget -- a separate portion of the budget that is intended to address readiness.
In total, the bill provides $774 million for 52 remanufactured AH-64 Apache helicopters, $262 million for seven new Apaches, and $72 million to support advanced procurement needs for an additional 10 aircraft.
The Army will get 28 new Lakota helicopters "to support ongoing mission requirements at the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, the Combat Training Centers, and the Army Test and Evaluation Center," the bill reads. And it notes, "the Secretary of the Army is encouraged to request funding for UH-72 Lakota Light Utility Helicopters to address ongoing mission requirements in future budget submissions."
The bill also provides 15 Black Hawks for the National Guard and five for the active force for an additional $340 million.
The NCFA also recommended the Army retain an 11th Combat Aviation Brigade in South Korea.The Army included retaining the CAB in its wish list, noting the funding needed would be roughly $305 million.
The spending bill funds an 11th CAB with overseas contingency operations (OCO) dollars. The service had requested $165 million for the CAB and the bill funds its retention at an additional $32.5 million and another $11 million in base operations support.
The Army also wanted, in its first wish list, additional Javelin anti-tank missiles and the spending bill provides $31 million in more funding for the weapon as well as $73.2 million in the supplemental budget.
The bill funds $16.3 million for M1 Abrams Tank modifications requested in the first list.
The second wish list
In December, the Army -- as well as the other services -- deviated from the norm and submitted supplemental wish lists in response to a request from the new Administration to outline what was needed that was not already included in its budget request. Defense News broke the news of the Army’s list.
The second list also outlined what the Army anticipated it would need for the large troop increase of 16,000 in 2017 that Congress had authorized -- which would bring the active force to 476,000-strong. The Army, in its wish list, said it anticipated it would need an additional $8.2 billion not included in 2017 and an additional $18.3 billion on top of its yet-to-be-released 2018 budget request.
The spending bill, however, funds just 1,000 additional active troops, 1,000 National Guardsmen and 1,000 reservists.
The second wish list deviated from a focus on fulfilling NCFA recommendations to addressing some of the major capability gaps that have recently emerged, particularly in the European theater.
Particularly, the Army has lamented a capability gap in short-range air defense (SHORAD) and the second list asked for $1.3 billion to pay for modifications to the Patriot Air-and-Missile Defense System, more Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, the acceleration of Stinger air-defense system modifications and a service life extension program and modifications for the Avenger short-range air defense system.
In the supplemental portion of the spending bill, Congress has funded $6.6 million in Stinger modifications and $2.4 million in Avenger modifications.
And the bill also funds an additional $20 million in research, development, test and evaluation dollars for an air-and-missile defense product improvement program for SHORAD specifically.
Electronic warfare capability is also a growing concern and the Army would speed up the procurement of ground and air electronic warfare capabilities, an area where Russia is considered to be more advanced. The Army asked for more money in its second list to accelerate EW programs.
Congress has appropriated an additional $10 million on top of $25 million originally requested for EW technology development and also included $4 million more in the supplemental portion of the bill.
The Army will also get an additional 12 Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft systems it had asked for in the second wish list for a total of $195 million in additional funding and also received $80 million for Gray Eagles in the supplemental budget as well as another $28 million for payloads.