US Army’s FY18 wish list would grow force by 17,000 soldiers


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s $12.7 billion wish list for fiscal 2018 asks to grow the total force by another 17,000 troops, would further increase munitions stockpiles, and would further modernize both brigade combat teams and vertical lift capabilities.

The wish list — known formally as an unfunded requirements list — is typically sent to Congress by each of the services to help guide Capitol Hill in considering what additional funding beyond the budget request Congress might provide as lawmakers begin to draft the policy and spending bills.

The Army’s $166 billion budget request for FY18 was released on May 23. It funds a 1,018,000 total force, which maintains the status quo and the end strength mandated in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, a better deal than was previously anticipated. The budget request also prioritized munitions stockpiles and modernization for armored brigade combat teams.

The unfunded requirements list in 2018 — obtained by Defense News — shows the Army would want to grow the force beyond the status quo, asking for $3.1 billion to add 10,000 troops for the active force, 4,000 for the Army National Guard and 3,000 for the Army Reserve.

The funding would support the pay, training, sustainment, infrastructure and equipping of the additional soldiers.

It would also provide for three security force assistance brigades; two Short-Range Air Defense, or SHORAD, battalions; two Multiple-Launch Rocket System battalions; cyber operations forces; a multi-domain headquarters; and a division and a corps headquarters.

In its FY18 budget request, the Army announced plans to create two security force assistance brigades “as a tool for combatant commanders to shape their areas of responsibility in ways that deter and prevent conflict and set the theater to enable the United States and its allies and partners to prevail if conflict becomes necessary,” an overview of the budget reads.

The wish list also includes adding a combat service support battalion, a heavy truck company and a maintenance support company.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed concern over the Army not being able to grow the force larger than what was mandated in 2017. And while the Army was able to fund more modernization efforts in FY18 than it has been able to in the past, McCain said he was also concerned that was enough to strengthen the force.

Speaking generally about the budget during that hearing, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said it stopped the bleeding, but further and consistent funds would be required to truly heal the force.

While the Army is prioritizing air-and-missile defense, particularly SHORAD, long-range fires, munitions shortfalls and enhancing the lethality of brigade combat teams, the wish list asks for $4.9 billion in additional funds within the service’s top 10 modernization priorities.

The largest amounts would be funneled into modernization accounts that would further enhance mobility, lethality and protection of vertical lift and the brigade combat teams, or BCT. The Army would want an additional $2.5 billion for the BCTs and $1.1 million for vertical lift.

The FY18 budget took another appetite suppressant on aviation modernization, so the wish list attempts to make that up with funds for nine additional AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, three more UH-60 Victor-model Black Hawk utility helicopters as well as three recapitalized versions. The list also includes nine new-build CH-47F Block I Chinook cargo helicopters.

On the ground vehicle side, the Army would recapitalize 33 M2A4 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 29 more Abrams tanks and 35 Hercules Recovery Vehicles as well as M872 trailers that address “critical mobility shortfalls across the Army,” according to the document.

Other modernization funding would go toward accelerating a replacement of radiation detection capability; developing assured positioning, navigation and timing in a GPS-denied environment; procuring hardware for route-clearance Medium Mine Protected Vehicles; and buying 12 Assault Breacher Vehicles, four Combat Dozer Blades and eight full-width mine plows for the 15th and 16th armored brigade combat teams.

The FY18 budget did shore up some of the munition stockpile shortages concerning the Army, but its wish list asks for $2.3 billion more for missiles, ammunition and funding for the industrial base.

The list asks for 75 more Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles, 147 more Patriot Missile Segment Enhancement missiles, 42 Patriot Enhanced Launcher Electronics Systems and 70 Patriot launcher modification kits.

Funding would also include a 66 percent increase in Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket System production capacity “to meet critical combat requirements and war reserves in Fires, Air and Missile Defense and SHORAD,” the document states.

The list also includes funding for the Cannon-Delivered Area Effects Munitions bridging strategy to possibly replace the Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions cluster munition. The ban on cluster munitions goes into effect on Jan.1, 2019.

The service also wants to bring production capacity for Excalibur munitions to its maximum rate of 3,000 rounds “in order to keep pace with combat requirements and slow the depletion of war reserves,” the list includes.

To meet urgent operational needs in theater, the list also would procure guided Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System rockets.

The Army also wants $1.8 billion for war-fighter readiness to keep BCT training proficiency aligned with increased operational tempo as well as other training rotations and related sustainment, infrastructure and equipment.

Lastly, the service is asking for an additional $579.1 million for infrastructure projects it couldn’t include in the FY18 request. The list asks to fund construction of six readiness centers for the reserve components, other maintenance facilities and barracks among other construction projects.

Joe Gould contributed to this report.

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