The modest funding increase the Army is requesting in fiscal 2018 will maintain the current force and ensure those soldiers are trained and equipped for ongoing and near-term conflicts, leaving little left to spend on modernization.

At a $137 billion base funding request with $29 billion in overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding, the total $166 billion Army budget is a 5.2 percent, or $7 billion, increase from the enacted fiscal 2017 budget. At least $5.7 billion of that bump is consumed by personnel and operations and maintenance costs.

“This budget and those that follow should provide the Army the necessary resources to conduct current operations, improve current readiness and make progress toward a more modern, capable and lethal future Army, provided predictable and consistent funding is available in a timely manner and at a funding level commensurate with current and future demands on the force,” Army Budget Director Maj. Gen. Thomas Horlander said May 23 at the Pentagon.

The funding plan supports a total Army of 1,018,000 soldiers at a personnel cost of $60.8 billion. The breakdown is 476,000 active Army soldiers, 343,000 National Guard troops and a 199,000-strong Reserve. Those troops levels are equal to those authorized in FY ‘17, but a 2.1 percent increase in troop pay and other expenses drove the Army’s personnel budget from $55.5 billion in fiscal 2016 to $58 billion in the 2018 request. 

The OCO funding at $29 billion maintains the current troop authorization levels in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. It also covers upgrades to Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks stationed in or headed across the Atlantic as part of the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI). The Army’s share of ERI funding accordingly would jump from $2.8 billion in fiscal year 2017 to $3.2 billion in fiscal 2018. 

“The increase in this FY ’18 request goes to covering the readiness requirements of that growth – both military pay and funding for training the force,” Horlander said. “The Army was able to leverage the growth to address recurring readiness shortfalls, primary in [operations and maintenance] functions, training and infrastructure.”

“Only a small portion of the growth remained to apply to our future modernization accounts,” he added.

Operation and maintenance funding increased to $39 billion in the 2018 request, up from $36.2 billion in FY ‘17. That covers 19 combat training center rotations and provides home station training needed to support a larger Army and improve readiness, Horlander said.

Army base procurement funding took a $400 million hit from the current funding level, shrinking to $17.4 billion in the fiscal 2018 request, though that level is $1 billion above the service’s fiscal 2016 weapon-buying budget. Including OCO funding, the service’s funding line shrinks from a total $20.8 billion enacted in FY ’17 to $20.2 billion for 2018.

The overall Army research, development and acquisition budget request is greater than the fiscal 2017 enacted level because of a $1 billion increase in research, development, test and evaluation funding for next-generation programs like Future Vertical Lift.

“This budget request represents the modernization priorities that we must pursue in order to advance material solutions that enable the Army to retain our advantage against advanced adversaries and to address a broader range of potential threats,” Horlander said. “The Army is accepting risk in developing new capabilities in order to prioritize incremental upgrades for our ground and air systems so we can put in the hands of our soldiers – in the near term – a greater and more-lethal capability.”

Aircraft procurement bears the brunt of the cuts, falling from $4.9 billion in fiscal year 2017 to $4.2 billion in the fiscal 2018 request. That is down $1.7 billion since fiscal 2016. Missile, combat vehicle and “other procurement” all receive $100 million bumps at the expense of aircraft procurement.

Procurement of Boeing [BA] CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters falls sharply from 22 in fiscal year 2017 to just 6 in the fiscal 2018 request. The Army will buy 50 remanufactured AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, two fewer than in 2017, but will increase the number of new-build Apaches from seven to 13.

Patriot Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) upgrades fall from 145 in FY ’17 to 93 in the Army’s 2018 request. It will buy 6,000 guided multiple launch rocket systems (GMLRS), a sharp increase from fewer than 3,000 in FY ‘17.  Fewer Army tactical missile systems (ATACMS) are in the plan – 122 instead of the 200 it bought in FY ‘17. The request for Hellfire Missiles – a mainstay of the wars in Iraq and Syria – jump from 155 in fiscal year 2017 to 998 in the fiscal 2018 request.

On the ground, the Army has requested $632 million for 20 M1 Abrams tank engineering change proposal 1A upgrades in its base budget request, down from 60 in FY ‘17. Another 36 tank upgrades at $581 million are funded in OCO for a total of 56 in the fiscal 2018 request.

Bradley fighting vehicle modifications would increase from 45 in fiscal 2017 to 135 under the spending plan. A total 42 armored multipurpose vehicles (AMPVs) are included in the base request at a cost of $393 million. Another 65 AMPVs are funded through OCO and destined for Europe to strengthen NATO’s deterrent against Russia.

Joint light tactical vehicle procurement jumps from $588 million in FY ’17 to $804 million in the 2018 request, a procurement increase from 1,828 to 2,110 trucks. 

The Army’s new force-tracking system, called the Joint Battle Command Platform would receive a 50 percent boost to 15,920 systems in the 2018 spending plan, from 10,687 systems in FY ‘17. Fewer handheld manpack small form fit radios are in the budget – 3,658 instead of the 5,656 bought in FY ‘17.

Army research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) receives a modest $1 billion increase to $9.4 billion under the budget proposal. Focus areas for the RDT&E budget are listed, in order of importance as: Air and missile defense; long-range precision fires; replenishment and development of munitions; mobility, lethality and protection for brigade combat teams; active protection systems; assured precision navigation and timing; electronic warfare; cyber; communications and, finally, vertical lift.

After years of budgetary neglect, the Army has set aside a significant funding stream for facilities improvements. The total facilities budget request is $1.8 billion, up from $1.5 billion in FY ‘17.

“One of the keys to readiness is installation readiness and investing in the Army’s infrastructure,” Horlander said. “The Army’s … military construction continues to be funded at a comparatively low level, although markedly more than last year.”