Wormuth: Budget Delays ‘Significant Problem’ for Army

Wormuth: Budget Delays ‘Significant Problem’ for Army

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Photo by: Architect of the Capitol

A 5.2% pay increase for soldiers and civilian employees, more than $5.3 billion in procurement programs and critical updates to ammunition production facilities could be at risk without a full-year budget for fiscal 2024, the Army’s top leaders warned.

Testifying April 19 before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said a stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution, would be a “significant problem” for the Army.

“This is the most significant modernization of the Army in the last 40 years,” Wormuth said. “A [continuing resolution], particularly a long-term CR, will significantly slow down that modernization effort at precisely the time when we’re trying to compete with China.”

Continuing resolutions allow federal programs to continue at current spending levels and prohibit the start of new programs. Such a measure at the start of fiscal 2024, which begins Oct. 1, would “essentially tie down about $5.3 billion in terms of procurement programs,” Wormuth said. “There are tens of procurement new starts that we would not be able to move out on, there are dozens of research and development testing new starts that we would not be able to move out on.”

Likening it to “fighting with one hand tied behind our back,” Wormuth said a stopgap measure would be a “substantial delay and impediment for us.”

The lack of a budget also hurts soldiers, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, who testified alongside Wormuth. “We’ve got soldiers out there doing great things, and they deserve a raise, and we need to get that to them,” he said.

Without full-year funding, units will slow their spending, and training events can be canceled or delayed, he said. “You can’t make up for the training that those soldiers didn’t get,” McConville said. “I would just ask, anything we can do to avoid a CR would be very helpful for the military.”

For fiscal 2024, the Army is seeking a $185.5 billion budget. It is part of a larger $842 billion defense budget request. On top of one of the largest pay increases in years for soldiers and civilian employees, the Army is gearing up for a “big year” for its modernization programs, from long-range hypersonic weapons to Mobile Protected Firepower, Wormuth said.

The Army also is planning 22 combat training center rotations, investing in its pre-positioned stocks around the world and transforming its force structure to include the new multidomain task forces, indirect fire capabilities and the Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense battalions.

It also continues to support Ukraine while investing $1.5 billion to modernize the organic industrial base. “One of the most important lessons we’ve learned from the war in Ukraine is the need for a more robust defense industrial base,” Wormuth said.

Part of a 15-year, $18 billion plan, the planned investments in fiscal 2024 could be derailed without a budget, Wormuth said. Those investments include new machining tools and new software, she said. “The Army’s organic industrial base is very, very old, so there’s a lot of work to be done,” Wormuth said.

At the same time, the Army “hasn’t taken its eye off” China, which is America’s “pacing challenge,” Wormuth said. The Indo-Pacific “may be a theater named after two oceans, but the Army has an important role to play there,” she said.

That’s why the Army is contributing every day to deter aggression and build partnerships across the region, she said. “The best way to avoid fighting a war is to show you can win any war you have to fight,” Wormuth said.