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‘Great Power Competition’ Drives Army Budget Plan

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U.S. Army
Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Army plans to spend more than $57 billion over the next five years on modernization and growth, a signal that the service is doubling down on preparing the force for the future battlefield.

The move sets into motion the most consequential shift in the way the service is organized and equipped in more than 40 years, Undersecretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy said.

“Once again ‘great power competition,’ as the National Defense Strategy put it, drives our priorities,” McCarthy said during a recent presentation at the Brookings Institution.

The budget shift is critical as the Army looks at what it needs to compete with and defeat its most likely opponents in the European and Pacific theaters, he said.

“The Army of today—as battle-hardened as it may be—lacks the next-generation weapons and other capabilities that are needed to confront these most sophisticated adversaries as part of a truly joint and networked force,” McCarthy said.

The Army has scrubbed and aligned billions of dollars in the past two years to focus on six major priority areas and 30 signature programs, McCarthy said. The priority areas are long-range precision fires, Next-Generation Combat Vehicles, Future Vertical Lift, air and missile defense modernization, soldier lethality and the network.

In its cost-cutting efforts, the Army eliminated more than 90 programs, curbed the projected rate of spending from previous budget plans, and slowed its projected growth to find consistent quality in recruiting. It also plans to stop production of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and modernization of the CH-47F Chinook helicopter, and decrease spending on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Program to save costs.

“Under this plan, the share of the Army modernization budget will shift, slowly but inexorably, from production and upgrade of existing systems, about 80 percent of the portfolio now, to new programs and capabilities, which should make up roughly half of all modernization funding by [fiscal] 2023,” McCarthy said.