AUSA Supports Funding Army Guard Dedicated Helicopters

AUSA Supports Funding Army Guard Dedicated Helicopters

Photo by: Capt. Jessica Donnelly

The Association of the U.S. Army is asking congressional appropriators to fund additional Army National Guard helicopters as final decisions are made about the 2019 defense budget.

In a Sept. 11 letter to the defense subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, retired Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, AUSA president and CEO, asks lawmakers to provide $452.6 million for 18 total AH-64 Apache Block IIIB helicopters. Twelve of the Apaches would be designated for the Army National Guard, six more than requested in the Pentagon’s initial budget.  This would “begin to bring the Army National Guard Apache battalions into compliance with the Army requirement of 24 aircraft per battalion,” Ham wrote. Currently, the four battalions have just 18 aircraft each.

Ham also asks lawmakers to approve $1.3 billion for Black Hawk procurement, with $319 million dedicated to 15 aircraft for the Army National Guard. He also asks for $150 million for Black Hawk A and L modernization. “These provisions ensure mission readiness and interoperability of the Army National Guard’s rotary wing aviation assets as they respond to state emergencies and support overseas contingency operations,” he writes.

The letter to Congress comes as congressional negotiators have started their final push to complete a 2019 defense budget before the fiscal year begins Oct. 1. To do this, House and Senate leaders have agreed to lump funding for defense, education, health and human services and labor into a single bill. 

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, the House Appropriations Committee chairman, explained, “Providing for our national defense is Congress’s most important responsibility. Our military leaders have called for a budget that will help rebuild and reform our armed forces after years of decline. It is up to us to provide the resources needed to preserve our status as the preeminent military in the world, and to support our men and women in uniform as they fulfill their missions.”

“It is also necessary that we fund vital domestic programs that will protect the health of Americans and save lives both now and in the future, as well as help develop a vibrant American workforce,” he said.

Ham urges swift action. “AUSA appreciates your efforts thus far and urges you to complete a bipartisan conference bill at your earliest opportunity,” he writes. “Achieving a defense appropriation by Oct. 1 will preserve the gains in readiness that the Defense Department is working to achieve. On-time appropriations, instead of a defense continuing resolution, will help our service members do their job defending America by keeping defense programs on track.”

“It is the right thing to do, and your progress has created great optimism that you can deliver a conferenced bill in September,” he writes.

The last time Congress passed a defense funding bill on time was fiscal 2009, according to Congressional Research Service records.