Bipartisan Deal Halts Army Drawdown
A bipartisan defense bill not just stops but also slightly reverses the Army’s drawdown, and it also provides soldiers with a bigger than expected Jan. 1 pay raise. The only hurdle to overcome is the bill has to become law.
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act unveiled Nov. 30 represents a bipartisan and bicameral agreement on the major annual defense policy bill. It includes $619 billion in total defense spending, including $59.5 billion for overseas contingency operations.
Retired Gen. Carter F. Ham, president and CEO of the Association of the U.S. Army, said AUSA “sees much to cheer in the compromise 2017 National Defense Authorization Act but we also have reason for concern.”
“We are pleased the bipartisan agreement stops and slightly reverses reductions in the number of soldiers. For the Regular Army, this means 16,000 more soldiers,” he said. “For the Army National Guard, this adds 8,000. And for the Army Reserve, the agreement represents a 4,000 increase.”
Ham added, “We are glad the Army is authorized additional resources to cover the added personnel costs. We had hoped this would be in the Army’s base budget rather than overseas contingency operations funding. Next year, we'll press Congress to secure permanent funding.”
Authorized Regular Army personnel strength for fiscal 2017 is 476,000 in the compromise bill, a move that is 16,000 more than the Pentagon requested and 1,000 more than the fiscal 2016 personnel cap. There are similar but smaller increases for the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, also raising their personnel caps to 1,000 more than the fiscal 2016 limit. The Army Guard authorized end of the fiscal year strength is 343,000 for 2017. The Army Reserve is authorized strength of 199,000.
“There is good news for soldiers in the agreement,” Ham said. The bill includes a 2.1 percent pay raise that would take effect Jan. 1, ending a five-year string of soldiers receiving raises of less than 2 percent and a three-year string of having raises that are less than the average private sector increase. Ham said this is “a positive sign for troops that there are limits to how much they'll be asked to sacrifice.”
One of the issues concerning AUSA are changes in military health care management. “We are deeply concerned about the directed overhaul of the management of military health care programs and military treatment facilities that could reduce the Army's ability to allocate its own medical resources,” Ham said.
“Your AUSA staff is now plowing through the full report; we’ll have more to report to you soon,” Ham said.