Soldier pay, quality of life, modernization among priorities in budget proposal
By Joe Lacdan, Army News ServiceMarch 14, 2019
WASHINGTON -- With Soldiers increasingly being asked to shoulder heavier workloads, the Army hopes to compensate them for their efforts with a 3.1 percent pay raise.The Army's $182.3 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes the highest pay increase for Soldiers in a decade. Additionally, the service plans to raise basic housing allowances by 3.2 percent and basic subsistence allowances by 2.4 percent.After launching a new recruiting initiative this year, the Army is aiming for a modest end-strength target next year, hoping to have 480,000 active-duty Soldiers, 336,000 National Guard members and 189,500 reservists by 2020.While much of the Army's fiscal year 2020 budget focus has centered on modernization efforts, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the military deputy for Financial Management and Comptroller, discussed the importance of readiness and quality of life during a budget briefing at the Pentagon Tuesday."Readiness will continue to be the number-one priority for the Army," McCarthy said.McCarthy said two-thirds of the Army's brigade combat teams are at their "highest state of readiness." Army leaders have asked for steady and consistent funding to supplement its readiness efforts, which helped support 32 combat training center rotations this year."Because of the consistent funding that we've gotten at a higher level here over the last couple of years, [it] has really allowed us to make some readiness gains," Horlander said.To meet its readiness goals, the Army proposes to increase its operations and maintenance budget to $52.6 billion. The plan covers an increase to infantry one-station unit training from 14 to 22 weeks. It will also provide funding to train 58 brigade combat teams, six security force assistance brigades and 11 combat aviation brigades. The service additionally plans to increase spending for flight crew hours for both active-duty and National Guard members.The operations budget funds multi-lateral exercises in the Pacific region and in Europe to help bolster partnerships with allies, a crucial element identified in the National Defense Strategy."There are a lot of efforts to strengthen the partnerships with our allies," Horlander said.The service has prioritized improving housing standards, as senior leaders have visited post housing at different installations in recent months. The Army is asking for an additional $600 million for the restoration and modernization of Soldiers' barracks and installation facilities. Some funding will go toward three new housing projects, Horlander said.The Army is seeking $34 billion for its research, development and acquisition funding that will go toward newer weapons systems.The Army will cut funding from certain weapons platforms and legacy systems will be cut to funnel more funding toward the Army's modernization efforts. McCarthy said that 93 programs were eliminated and an additional 93 will be reduced or delayed beginning in fiscal year 2020 to fiscal 2024."These choices were complex and difficult. At times people will focus in on … winners and losers," McCarthy said. "But what we look at is the choices we had to make from a modernization standpoint to be the Army that we need by 2028.While the Army will shift its focus from legacy programs, McCarthy said that some of the platforms will still be needed. Those programs will be gradually enhanced to bridge the gap between newer and older weapons systems.The Army's FY20 budget request now awaits approval from Congress.