WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is freeing up another $10 billion to apply to its top priorities in its next five-year budget plan, according to the service’s undersecretary.
“We are about to slap the table on the [program objective memorandum] here by no later than the middle of June,” Ryan McCarthy told a group of reporters during a May 29 media roundtable in his office.
As part of a rigorous review of programs and spending, the Army set out to find $10 billion within the budget that could be reallocated toward priorities in its fiscal 2021-2025 program objective memorandum.
The money shook out through another round of what the Army informally calls “night court,” a review process that freed up $30 billion in the last budget cycle to get ambitious modernization programs off the ground.
The night court process was inspired by similar reviews conducted under Robert Gates when he was defense secretary. Rather than make $182 billion worth of decisions in a few hours, the process is meant to establish a deliberate route to applying funds against priorities, McCarthy said.
For example, if a program didn’t contribute to a more lethal battlefield or to one of the Army’s six modernization priorities, it was canceled or downsized.
The Army set up a new four-star command — Army Futures Command — last year to tackle the service’s top six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, the next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.
The review was conducted with the Army chief, vice chief, secretary and undersecretary at the head of the table last summer. But this year, to establish a more sustainable model, leadership fell to the major four-star commands and civilian heads in charge of major offices like acquisition and manpower.
“Every dollar counts in this environment,” McCarthy said. “And so what we’ve done is we’ve realized that it’s not a sustainable model to have the entire Army leadership hunkered down every summer, but should delegate to the appropriate echelon of authority.”
Only the most difficult decisions will be brought to the top four Army leaders, he added.
When it comes to finding another $10 billion across the five-year planning period to apply to priorities, McCarthy said, “we are in very good shape there.”
The Army is also working to shift spending so that 50 percent is applied to new programs and 50 percent to legacy systems in the FY24-FY25 time frame. In FY17, the Army was applying 80 percent to legacy programs and 20 percent to bringing on new capabilities.
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.