Modest Increase Ahead in Army Troop Strength

Modest Increase Ahead in Army Troop Strength

Photo by: U.S. Army

The House Armed Services Committee is poised to approve the Army’s request for a modest 4,000-soldier increase in Regular Army troop strength but plans no fiscal year 2019 boost in the size of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.

The committee’s version of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act would cap the Regular Army at 487,500, the Army National Guard at 343,500 and the Army Reserve at 199,500.

The committee bill would allow the Trump administration to boost military pay by 2.6 percent on Jan. 1, 2019, which would be the largest increase in nine years.

Lawmakers have talked about the need for an even bigger Regular Army but Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley has asked Congress to limit the annual jump in troop levels to no more than 4,000, the maximum he said will allow the Army to maintain quality standards.

The boost comes at a time when the Army acknowledges recruiting problems. Army officials have announced they won’t be able to meet a goal in having 80,000 new recruits in fiscal 2018, lowering their target to 76,500. An improving national economy and less interest in military service are factors in the recruiting problems. Unemployment was 4.1 percent in March as the economy gained 103,000 jobs, and hourly wages in the private sector have increased at an annual rate of 2.7 percent, both factors that work against military recruiting.