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Army budget moves forward in ‘unusual’ legislative year

Monday, April 29, 2019

On Capitol Hill, the committees on armed services and the defense appropriations subcommittees are making considerable progress holding hearings and reviewing the Defense Department and military services’ budget requests for fiscal year 2020.

Army Secretary Mark T. Esper and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley have now appeared before all four defense committees/subcommittees for the Army’s budget posture hearings.

The hearings for the most part have been cordial and positive. The most contentious issue has been over funding for the border wall, which is a White House and DoD issue more than an Army issue.

In the hearings, Esper and Milley have attentively thanked Congress for supporting Army readiness in past years. They have provided examples of how Army readiness has improved, such as the increased numbers of ready brigade combat teams and combat training center rotations.

Readiness remains the Army’s No. 1 priority. The other major focus of senior leaders has been to explain the Army’s priorities for modernization in the 2020 budget request.

In their opening remarks and in response to questions, Esper and Milley discussed the Army’s process for reviewing every modernization program, nothing that the Army is making adjustments in this year’s budget request to support the National Defense Strategy and reflect today’s national security environment, with a more concentrated focus on Russia and China.

The defense committees have complimented the secretary and the chief for the Army’s comprehensive review of its modernization programs, and members of Congress have been generally supportive of the Army’s recommendations so far.

The Association of the U.S. Army supports the Army’s priorities for readiness and modernization and is encouraging Congress to support the Army’s budget request.

In addition, AUSA is reinforcing the Army’s request for the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and Defense Appropriations bills to be enacted in time for the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Congressional support can still change going into markup, but for now, support for the Army’s budget request for modernization and readiness is positive and encouraging.

Looking ahead, members of Congress are out on Easter Recess for two weeks, working in their states and districts. When they return, the Senate Armed Services Committee plans to mark up its version of the National Defense Authorization Act in the third week of May and the House Armed Services Committee plans to mark up the first week in June.

This order of business is unusual; traditionally, the House committee marks up before the Senate.

Please stay tuned for further reporting on this “unusual” legislative year.

Mark Haaland is AUSA’s Government Affairs Director.