Army leadership found $31.5 billion it will shift from low-tier priorities to fund “vast increases” for its modernization programs, surpassing its original mark by over $6 billion, a senior official said Tuesday.

Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy told attendees at an Association of the United States Army event the Army’s upcoming fiscal year 2020 budget, scheduled to be released on March 12, will reflect a plan to fully fund the Army’s 31 programs across its six modernization programs over the next five years.

Ryan McCarthy, the Under Secretary of the Army, poses for his official portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, Aug. 3, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King)

“We found just north of $30 billion dollars in cuts and reductions, as well as cost avoidance. As you walk down the balance sheet, it’s about $8 billion cost avoidance and about $22 billion in just cuts or terminations so that we could realign the funding against our priorities,” McCarthy said. “As we approach the end of this [Future Years Defense Program], you’ll see a shift towards the development of new weapon systems and a pretty dramatic shift in the ratio between legacy and developmental programs.”

Army Secretary Mark Esper previously said the leadership had met its original mark to find $25 billion to move from low-tier programs towards modernization efforts without specifying the exact figure (Defense Daily, Feb. 8).

McCarthy said the initial target number was the low end to ensure the Army met “vast increases” to fund equipment requirements for future platforms and weapon systems, adding that the additional $6 billion was a result of cementing the new approach to reform, which officials are calling the “night court” process.

“The target of $20 billion or $25 billion, that was just to pay equipment bills. But what [senior leadership] is trying to do is change the fundamental behavior of the Army to be better with every dollar we have,” McCarthy said.

Gen. Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff, has said the Army cut 80 programs and downgraded another 106 as a result of the “night court” process (Defense Daily, Jan. 16).

McCarthy told reporters following the AUSA event the $31.5 billion was pulled from low-tier programs across the budget, including planned equipping, manning, training and sustainment funds.

The Army has already started its next night court process for the FY ’21 budget which will now include program leads making presentations to senior leadership this spring and summer on the value of their current projects.

“It will be a much more sophisticated approach than the last night court, where it was literally all of us sitting there just going through every program,” McCarthy told reporters.

The $31.5 billion will be applied toward the 31 programs spread across the Army’s six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, air and missile defense, soldier lethality and modernizing the tactical network.

The Pentagon’s FY ’20 budget is expected to be released in two parts in mid-March, a skinny budget on March 12 followed by a rollout of the full documents on March 18 (Defense Daily, Feb. 4).