WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is taking a hit in the president’s fiscal 2022 defense budget request compared to the other military services, but the land force continues to staunchly guard its ongoing modernization efforts intended to provide overmatch against adversaries like China and Russia by 2035, according to documents released May 28.
The Army’s budget request of $173 billion for FY22 represents a $5 billion reduction compared to last year’s request of $178 billion. Congress enacted $176.6 billion in FY21.
Different this year is the lack of wartime funding — also known as the overseas contingency operations account — that, for the first time since it was created, is rolled into the base budget. The OCO account is now referred to as direct and enduring contingency costs. That was reduced by $5 billion from FY21, Army comptroller Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander told a small group of reporters.
From FY21 to FY22, the base budget of $154.5 billion has a slight uptick of $1.4 billion, he added, which is a “hair less” than a 1 percent increase. The direct and enduring contingency funding request is for $18.4 billion.
The Army accommodated the sizable reduction in wartime funding and the small growth in its base budget by protecting readiness and modernization but cutting from its research and development as well as its acquisition portfolios, Horlander said, which equates to roughly $4 billion less than what was enacted in FY21.
The $4 billion reduction is almost “entirely driven by a reduction in Middle East requirements,” acting Army Secretary John Whitley told reporters before the budget request release.
The Army will hold its end strength at 485,000 active-duty soldiers. The FY21 enacted end strength was 485,900. The request allows for 336,000 Army National Guardsmen and 189,500 Army Reserve personnel.
As the Army shifts its focus to stronger operational capability in the Pacific, it is requesting $1 billion to contribute to the lethality of the joint force, which is meant to deter Chinese aggression in the region. Within that deterrence initiative, the Army is asking for $239.6 million in missile procurement and $699 million in research, development, test and evaluation.
Operation and maintenance
The service is asking for $54.6 billion for operation and maintenance, which includes $5.1 billion in direct war costs and $5.3 billion in enduring costs.
About $3.2 billion of the reduction in operation and maintenance comes from force-structure reductions as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan. Another $200 million reduction comes from adjustments to the European Deterrence Initiative.
The budget request funds the maintenance of 21 brigade combat teams, five security force assistance brigades and 11 combat aviation brigades, and it calls for the support of 20 combat training center rotations.
The service will continue to invest in its multiyear campaign of learning, dubbed Project Convergence. The Army is requesting $106.8 million total ($33.7 million in operation and maintenance funding and $73.1 million in research, development and testing) for the now-yearly exercise that will take place for the second time this fall.
Army leaders are concerned the service will be unable to continue protecting priority programs and key enabling capabilities in upcoming budgets after FY22, but modernization efforts remain untouched in the request.
Some programs considered critical to the future are already “on the edge of viability,” Lt. Gen. James Pasquarette, the Army G-8 in charge of equipping, said May 13 at the McAleese & Associates conference.
The Army’s equipping peg had to cut roughly $1.6 billion from its budget in the FY22 request, Pasquarette told Defense News in an interview ahead of the budget release.
The Army wrapped its arms tightly around a set of 35 priority modernization programs to include efforts in long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicles, the network and future vertical lift while at the same time bracing for future budget cuts.
And it has identified another 30 systems, not among the top priority programs, but those that are considered key enablers because without them the top modernization programs won’t reach their full potential. The service has roughly $24 billion invested in key enablers.
One example is the Q-53 radar, which is needed in order for the Army’s future Extended Range Cannon Artillery system to see out to targets at its 70-kilometer range. Without a capable radar, the ERCA system would not reach its full potential. The Army is requesting $88 million for the radar.
Other key enablers include the Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node ($83.3 million requested), Family of Weapon Sights-Individual ($85.4 million), Vehicle Protection System ($104.5 million), the Improved Turbine Engine Program ($29.5 million), Terrestrial Layer System ($18.4 million), and Cannon Delivered Area Effects Munition ($6.5 million).
Sentinel radar, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and Excalibur are also key enablers.
Pasquarette said that of the roughly $35 billion inside the equipping portfolio he manages, 47 percent of the funding is allocated to advance the top 35 modernization priorities plus the 30 other key enablers. The other 53 percent is everything else, which covers roughly 500 other programs.
In the next five years, the priority programs will be funded closer to 50 percent, he added.
While modernization priorities are well funded, the Army is asking for $1.3 billion less than what was enacted in FY21 — a total of $12.8 billion in FY22 — in research, development, test and evaluation money.
Roughly 74 percent of the Army’s science and technology dollars will be spent on its modernization priorities.
The FVL budget request is $1.12 billion in FY22, which includes a $270 million boost for the service’s future long-range assault aircraft expected to be fielded around 2030, according to Pasquarette.
The Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon would receive $412 million in FY22 to support live-fire tests as well as fabrication and assembly of the glide-body prototype.
The Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense capability — the radar that will replace the current Patriot air and missile defense sensor — would get $328 million in FY22.
The Army’s new medium-range capability missile would get $286 million in FY22 if approved.
The Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office would also receive $244 million to push development efforts in directed-energy, long-range precision fires, air and missile defense, cyber, artificial intelligence, signals intelligence, unmanned aircraft systems, and counter-UAS capabilities.
At this point, according to Pasquarette, the Army is “down into bone” when it comes to cutting from non-priority programs. If budgets continue to decline, he added, the Army will have to start slicing into the muscle of untouchable modernization programs.
The service plans to spend $2.8 billion less than what was enacted in FY21 in procurement, asking for $21.3 billion. The Army wants to buy less aircraft and combat vehicles in the legacy fleet than originally planned in FY22.
The aircraft procurement budget request of $2.8 billion is $1.3 billion less than FY21 enacted dollars.
After building 42 UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters in FY21, the service will build half that in FY22 with plans to roll just 24 off the production line.
The Army will also remanufacture 30 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and buy six MH-47G Chinook helicopters for Army special operators.
The service is not requesting CH-47F Block II Chinooks for the active force after deciding not to purchase any several years ago, but it is including some of those aircraft in its unfunded requirements list, which has yet to be delivered to Congress, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told reporters just ahead of the budget request release. Congress restored funding to begin an initial buy of CH-47F Block II aircraft in the FY21 spending bill.
The Army also plans to upgrade 187 Stryker combat vehicles compared to 254 in FY21, and will only upgrade 70 Abrams M1 tanks compared to 102 last year. The request includes funding for 25 Paladin Integrated Management howitzers. The service received funding for 31 in FY21.
Less short-range air defense systems will be procured in FY22 — 37 total. The Army is funded to buy 59 SHORAD systems in FY21.
The Precision Strike Missile, Integrated Visual Augmentation System and Next-Generation Squad Weapon are all seeing boosts as procurement ramps up for the programs as they begin fielding.
Weapons and tracked combat vehicle funding is boosted slightly in FY22: The request asks for $3.8 billion over the $3.6 billion approved in FY21.
The request also includes $287 million to begin low-rate initial production for the Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower capability.
The Armored Multipurpose Vehicle is also receiving a boost in the request: The Army wants $105 million in FY22 compared to $63 million in FY21 as production ramps up.
The Army has also cut back its Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles to $37 million after receiving $181 million in FY21, while the Family of Heavy Tactical Vehicles budget increased to $64 million. The FY21 approved funding for the latter was $7 million.
The service will also procure less Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, planning to spend $575 million in FY22. The Army received $884 million in FY21 for the vehicles.
The Army National Guard’s Humvee modernization effort will receive no funding in FY22 compared to $100 million in FY21.
After three years of budget deep dives the Army has called “night court,” it has found less dollars to move to modernization priorities each year. The Army plans to cancel just seven programs after canceling 93 programs in FY20 and 41 in FY21.
Programs that are being eliminated include Aviators Night Vision Imaging System and Hellfire Missile Launchers. They will both move into sustainment with existing capability and stockpiles at adequate levels.
Joint Technology Center/Systems Integration program will be discontinued and transitioned to sustainment, and procurement of the 2.75-inch Hydra rocket launchers will be canceled along with the Lightweight Counter Mortar System. Replacement capability is not required for either the launchers or the mortar system, according to Army documents. The Spider Networked Munition System is being terminated “in favor of less costly alternative,” the documents read.
The Army is shifting $12.2 million to elsewhere in the budget by canceling Multi-Function Electronic Warfare system procurement as well. But according to Army officials, the research and development effort will continue, and the effort can “re-compete” for procurement funding in future budgets.
The service is also reducing funding for another 37 programs, Army officials told reporters prior to the budget request release.
Whitley, the Army’s acting secretary, told reporters ahead of the budget request release that it is getting “progressively harder to find lower-priority programs to realign” modernization priorities. The service has found roughly $9.1 billion in funding to move across its FY22-26 five-year plan in the last round of night court, compared to $22.4 billion in the FY20-24 plan and $13.5 billion in the FY21-25 plan.
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.