View Full Version : Weapons cuts to pay for Army troop increase

08-16-2009, 11:01 AM
Weapons cuts to pay for Army troop increase

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Aug 16, 2009 9:40:51 EDT

The White House has sent a formal request to Congress for permission to shift roughly $1 billion of next year’s proposed Pentagon budget to pay for a previously announced temporary boost in Army end strength, aimed at reducing strain on the heavily deployed force.

To cover that cost, the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force — as well as the Army — would all take modest hits to procurement funds requested in the overseas contingency operations portion of the 2010 federal budget.

In an Aug. 13 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., President Barack Obama asked that Congress consider amending the 2010 Pentagon budget request by reallocating money from “lower-priority DoD contingency operations’ requirements.” The letter said these items are no longer needed “due to changed circumstances.”

Obama didn’t elaborate, and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.

But the words would appear to be a clear reference to the administration giving higher priority to the war in Afghanistan than the war in Iraq, and the positive official assessments of the development of Iraqi security forces. That development is key to maintaining the security of U.S. troops as they withdraw — an effort expected to accelerate following the January 2010 elections in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he plans to increase Army end strength from its current 547,400 to 562,400 in 2010 and to a peak of 569,000. He has said that he will work with the White House Office of Management and Budget and Congress to fund the buildup in the succeeding two years.

For the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, the administration wants to reprogram just over $1 billion from its current request to cover the cost of recruiting and training an additional 15,000 soldiers, according to a letter from OMB Director Peter Orszag that Obama attached to his letter to Pelosi.

Orszag made his recommendations with input from each of the services and with Gates’ blessing, according to the letter.

The Army would cough up most of the funding, a total of $700.6 million that was targeted for its initial request for Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) trucks and other vehicles.

The plan reduces the Army’s request for more Humvees due to “large recent procurements” that raised its inventory to roughly 120,000, OMB said. The Army also is reassessing its requirements given the number of MRAPs, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, being procured.

Cutting funds for the FMTV trucks would be done by slipping the 2009 contract award into the coming year and moving vehicles slated for assembly in 2010 into 2011, OMB said.
Drawn From Contingency Funds

The total would be about 1 percent of the procurement money the Army is requesting in the overseas contingency fund for the coming year.

The Navy and Air Force would take equal $156 million hits, according to OMB.

The Navy and Marine Corps would lose 5 percent of the weapons-buying funds in their 2010 contingency request. The offset “reflects reductions, not eliminations,” in weapons, ammunition and support equipment procurements. But, OMB said, the Navy says it can make up the difference with money provided in the 2009 supplemental appropriation.

The Navy would trim $23 million from its request for Hellfire missiles; OMB said the 4,276 missiles in production and the remaining 1,219 requested in 2010 “are sufficient for immediate needs.”

Another $28.8 million would be taken from proposed funding for Navy and Marine Corps machine gun ammunition; OMB said the 4.2 million rounds in production and the remaining 2010 procurement are similarly sufficient.

The Marine Corps would lose $54 million of the total requested for 155mm Lightweight Towed howitzers; $12.6 million from its night vision equipment request; $10.2 million from an account for the procurement and installation of motor transport modifications; $17 million for physical security equipment; and $10.4 million for training devices, OMB said.

The Air Force would lose a little more than 4 percent of its contingency procurement request for the coming year under the proposed amendments. But the cuts would do little damage, OMB said. Production of the C-130 Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures modifications is already at maximum capacity, allowing a trim of $124.4 million, OMB said. And a total of $11.6 million was made available due to schedule delays in kit procurement and installation that resulted from contracting issues.

OMB also said that as a result of the Combat Air Forces restructure and the Air Force’s ability to retire more Block 25 F-16 fighter jets, the Air Force can trim $20 million for reduced F-16 Secure Line-of-Sight and Beyond-Line-of-Sight capability.

The overall $1 billion request would cover pay and benefits, training, additional costs to installations for items such as housing and food, related benefits for troops and their families, and the processing of additional Army recruits.

The Army, the largest service, has taken the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates said the “persistent pace of operations” in the two wars has steadily increased the number of troops unavailable for duty.

In addition, Gates said the decision to end the Army’s “routine use” of the controversial “stop-loss” program, which held troops in place beyond their scheduled separations or retirements, required a larger “personnel float” for deploying units with troops whose contracts expire during their deployments.

The latest expansion of the Army follows a recent permanent end-strength increase of 65,000 in the Army and 27,000 in the Marine Corps, both also aimed at reducing strain on the force during the ongoing wars.