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Budget priorities include modernization, sequestration

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Now that the Defense Department has released its budget, the Army’s first posture hearing will be with the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 26.

However, other hearings on topics such as readiness, quality of life and threats to national security have been ongoing since the new 116th Congress took office.

AUSA will provide updates on the Army’s budget request as we learn the details and gain useful insights from Armed Services and Appropriations hearings, budget reviews and mark-ups.

In his remarks at AUSA’s Institute of Land Warfare breakfast forum on Feb. 26, Undersecretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy told the audience that while readiness remains the Army’s top budget priority in the FY20 budget request, the service also is making modernization a major priority to improve lethality and overmatch.

McCarthy noted that the Army has reprioritized more than $30 billion to support the Army’s six modernization priorities.

AUSA is actively advocating for and supporting the Army’s budget priorities in our congressional meetings.

As noted in the previous issue of AUSA News, the overarching budget challenge for DoD and the federal government is the return of the Budget Control Act budget caps in 2020, also known as sequestration.

Without an agreement between the administration and Congress, sequestration will kick in with the new fiscal year.

Absent an agreement, the defense budget will take about a $71 billion reduction from FY19 levels and the non-defense budget will take about a $55 billion reduction.

These are big numbers that will have a considerable impact on the Army’s priorities for readiness and modernization. So, a solution for the Budget Control Act budget caps and sequestration is a top legislative priority.

Encouraging Congress to pass the National Defense Act and the Defense and Military Construction Appropriations before the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 is equally important.

We understand that the administration’s plan for this year’s budget is to submit a budget that complies with the Budget Control Act along with a large Overseas Contingency Operations budget that includes funding for DoD for requirements not directly related to overseas operations.

The chairman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., has indicated he supports this approach, but House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., has expressed concern, noting the OCO budget is intended to support warfighting requirements and no others.

We will continue to provide updates on the budget, along with the Armed Services and Appropriations committees, as the 116th Congress reviews and deliberates on the submitted budget and acts (or does not act) to pass legislation funding the Defense Department and the Army in time for the new fiscal year.

Please stay tuned.

Mark Haaland is AUSA’s Government Affairs Director.