By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (May 30, 2017) -- If Congress approves what was asked for in the Fiscal Year 2018 defense budget request, Soldiers can expect to see a bump in their paycheck come January.
The FY18 budget request, released by the Army on May 23, includes $58.3 billion for military personal funding to support an Army of 1,018,000 Soldiers across the total force. This increase is $2.8 billion over last year's enacted budget, and that extra money will not only pay for sustaining the additional Soldiers authorized in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, but will also pay for an increase in Soldier compensation.
The FY18 budget asks for a 2.1 percent increase in Soldier basic pay, a 2.9 percent increase in basic allowance for housing, and a 3.4 percent increase in basic allowance for subsistence. If enacted, those increases will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018.
Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Horlander, director of the Army budget, provided highlights of the Army's $137.2 billion FY18 base budget request May 23 at the Pentagon.
"The funding levels of the recently enacted FY17 budget and this FY18 base request are consistent with the administration's goals for the U.S. Army to rebuild readiness, reverse end strength reductions and prepare for future challenges," Horlander said, adding that this year's budget request is designed to provide combatant commanders with the "best trained and ready land forces that we can generate."
A $38.9 billion request for operation and maintenance dollars in the FY18 budget -- a $2.7 billion increase over the enacted budget last year -- is designed to "resource a more balanced readiness across the force," Horlander said.
That includes funding for 19 combat training center rotations for both the regular Army and the National Guard, as well as funding for increased home station training that will focus on both decisive action and counter-insurgency operations.
EQUIPMENT PROCUREMENT AND MAINTENANCE
That O&M budget for the regular Army also provides funding for equipment sustainment, with an increase in depot maintenance "to help bring our equipment to a greater level of repair, and by enhancing Army prepositioned stocks that will improve global responsive capabilities," Horlander said.
The recent release of the "Strategic Portfolio Analysis and Review," or SPAR, spelled out the top Army priorities in modernization. From that review, the Army has documented 10 top-level areas on which to focus limited modernization dollars. Chief among those areas are air and missile defense, long-range fires and filling a munitions shortfall.
All three of those priorities are adequately addressed in the FY18 budget proposal, where $26.8 billion has been requested for procurement, as well as research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E). In that RDA budget, procurement dollars requested actually decreased from last year, while the requested amount for research has increased, Horlander said, "to enable the Army to retain our advantage against advanced adversaries and to address a broader range of potential threats."
Within the procurement dollars, he said, air and missile defense, as well as long-range fires, represent "the most urgent and pressing capability needs. Given the possibility of confronting a force with substantial anti-access and area-denial capabilities, the Army needs to advance its short-range air defense and long-range fires capabilities."
In keeping with that priority, he said, the FY18 budget funds procurement and installation of 131 Patriot Missile modification kits, as well as investment in Avenger surface-to-air missile system support.
For long-range fires, Horlander explained that the FY18 budget supports a 10-year service life extension of 121 currently expired Army Tactical Missile Systems, procurement of 6,000 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, and continued enhancement for 93 Patriot Missile systems with the Missile Segment Enhancement program, which increases altitude and range of the rockets.
As part of the Strategic Portfolio Analysis and Review, the Army identified a munitions shortfall as one of the top three priorities it hopes to address. Horlander said the FY18 budget request "will help ensure the availability of critical munitions for the combatant commands."
Inside that request, he said, the Army asks for funding to buy 88,000 unguided Hydra 70 rockets, as well as 480 M982 Excalibur guided bombs for war reserve inventory replenishment. The budget also asks for funding to support modernization of the Army's ammunition industrial facilities, including a multi-year effort to improve the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee.
On the ground, the Army aims to improve mobility, lethality, and protection for its brigade combat teams. The FY18 budget request supports combat vehicle modernization for the Abrams, Stryker, Bradley and Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, as well as the Howitzer fleet. Horlander said the Army plans to procure 42 of the AMPV systems within the FY18 budget request, as well as purchase active protection systems for Abrams tanks within Europe-based BCTs.
Aviation, which makes up the largest portion of the FY18 procurement request at about $4.2 billion, asks for funding for 50 remanufactured AH-64 Apache aircraft, 13 new Apaches, as well as funding for 48 UH-60M Black Hawk aircraft and six CH-47 Chinooks.
The $9.4 billion in RDT&E funding, he said, aims to "put technologically advanced equipment and more lethal weaponry in the hands of Soldiers sooner," Horlander said.
Focus in that portion is on continued development of air and missile defense, long-range precision fires, and weapons and munitions technologies, he explained. The Army is planning on investing in the Stinger Product Improvement Program as well as the Patriot Product Improvement Program.
The Army is "investing RDT&E funds to increase range, volume of fire, and precision and guidance of our cannon and missile systems and to further enable precision fires in a GPS-denied environment," he said.
Operations in GPS-denied environments are also a priority, Horlander stated, as RDT&E has a focus on development of assured position navigation timing -- which will allow for navigation even if adversaries deny use of GPS systems.
Overall, the Army's FY18 budget request, supports a "vast complexity of requirements needed to restore and rebuild America's Army for today's and tomorrow's missions," Horlander explained. "It represents a balance between the size of the force, current readiness requirements, and the necessary investment in modernization to ensure our Army remains the premier ground force of the future, capable of protecting the national security interests of our country."