Response To Commission Weeks Away

Monday, March 07, 2016

It will be more than a month before the Army issues full responses to the 63 recommendations outlined in the final report of the National Commission on the Future of the Army, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said last week.

At a hearing of the House appropriations subcommittee on defense, Milley said Army officials are working their way through the commission’s recommendations and expect to have a full response compiled within “five or six weeks.”

“We’re eating the elephant a bite at a time,” he told lawmakers, noting that “50-ish or so” of the recommendations appear to be easily implemented at low or no cost. Indeed, some already are being implemented.

The rest, however, are “significant and expensive,” he said, including a call to maintain at least 11 active-duty combat aviation brigades. The service currently plans to deactivate the active-duty combat aviation brigade now based in South Korea by fiscal year 2019, leaving 10 Regular Army CABs.

The commission’s report acknowledges that keeping one more CAB than planned would “add substantially” to the Army budget, and suggested reducing two Regular Army infantry brigade combat teams “to provide the manning necessary to strengthen aviation, short-range air defense and other capabilities.”

Milley disagreed. “If you look at what capabilities are being demanded today, an infantry combat team is one of last things I’d want to get rid of,” he said. “One of last things you want to give up is your foxhole strength. If I have nothing else in the Army, that’s what I want.”

The commission’s aviation recommendations “make strategic and operational sense, but are very expensive to execute,” he said. “We are hard-pressed to do those without additional funds,” which is why those initiatives have been placed on the Army’s list of unfunded priorities.