Top Army leadership has identified at least $25 billion in proposed funding over the next five years that it plans to shift from equipment items to its top modernization and readiness priorities, with the number expected to grow as officials begin assessing lower tier manning and training priorities.
Army Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at a Monday press conference that $25 billion is the initial number for what will be moved to meet modernization priorities aligned with standing up its new Futures Command, with the process already leading to several reductions and cuts for low priorities.
“That dollar-figure is the low end. Most of those savings were principally found in the equipment peg. We’re in the process now of going through the other pegs. And this will be a new routine,” Esper said at the press briefing during the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference.
Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the Army of chief of staff, worked with a group of senior leadership to determine the programs that could be cut to free up funds for the Army’s six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, tactical network, air and missile defense and soldier lethality.
“The chief and I spent, 40, 50, 60 hours going through program after program, activity after activity, to look at each one and assess it. And then we asked ourselves, is this more important than the Next Generation Combat Vehicle? Is more important than a new squad automatic weapon? Is this more important than long range precision fires? So we had to make those tradeoffs,” Esper said.
Final details of where funds were cut and what areas will receive a boost will be included in the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal to be released in February.
In August, Esper said the new Futures Command would operate on an annual budget of around $80 million to $100 million to handle the Army’s $30 billion to $50 billion modernization portfolio (Defense Daily, August 29).
Esper said the process of ranking out priorities to best maximize funds for modernization efforts will continue moving forward.
“We will institutionalize this type of process going forward because where you put your money speaks a lot about your priorities. And we have prioritized readiness and modernization,” Esper said.