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White House Objects to Bigger Army

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U.S. Army
Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The White House continues to object to a bigger Army, warning that spending on troop levels will place additional risk on readiness and weapons programs.

A statement of administration policy, issued June 14 in reaction to the House of Representatives version of the 2017 Defense Appropriations Act, objects to a House Republican initiative that not just stops but slightly reverses the drawdown in Total Army troop levels.

“Adding unnecessary end strength in the manner proposed in the bill would increase military personnel and operation and maintenance support costs by approximately $30 billion,” the policy statement says, counting the five-year cost of the increases. “This would also invite a significant, unacceptable risk of creating a future hollow force in which force structure exists, but the resources to make it ready do not follow.”

“The administration urges support of the Department's plan, which reflects sound strategy and responsible choices among capacity, capabilities, and current and future readiness,” the statement says.

End strength for the Regular Army would be 480,000 soldiers under the House funding bill, HR 5293. That is 20,000 more soldiers than requested in the administration budget, and 5,000 more soldiers than provided in the 2016 budget.

Army National Guard strength would be 350,000 under the bill; this is 15,000 soldiers more than requested for fiscal year 2017, and 8,000 more than the 2016 level. Army Reserve strength would be 205,000 soldiers, a level 10,000 more than requested and 7,000 greater than the 2016 budget.

Total Force troop levels in the funding bill match those approved by the House in May in the separate 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

Final troop levels have not been decided. The Senate’s versions of the defense authorization and appropriations bills side with the DoD and White House on lowering troop levels to provide money for other defense programs. The sharp differences between the two legislative chambers and with the White House will have to be reconciled before final defense legislation is enacted.