WASHINGTON -- As the Army continues reshaping, "night court" sessions once again realigned funds to finance modernization priorities, and according to the Army's top civilian official, the fiscal probe isn't going anywhere.

Facing flat budgets with little wiggle room, more tough calls could be on the way, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said during a Defense Writers Group event Wednesday, in which he also discussed new deployments and cyber warfare changes.

"There were some hard choices," he said, regarding the 2021 budget request, with more "hard choices coming." Many of those choices were hashed out during the latest round of "night court."

NIGHT COURT TO STAY

"Night court" is a budgetary review strategy involving top Army leaders, who meet afterhours to comb through every service program and reinvest funds from lower priorities to modernization programs.

Last year, Army officials said the process made space for more than $30 billion. The funds were then realigned into modernization priorities through 2024, which will help fund future prototyping and demonstration efforts.

Programs unrelated to the six modernization efforts may receive additional cuts as top leaders get a better grasp at how the "Big Six" priorities are taking shape, he said.

Those priorities are: long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and Soldier lethality.

"We're going to have to continue night courts," McCarthy said regardless of who the Army secretary is.

Right now, the choices made -- the Army programs affected and the amount of funds -- from the latest round of cuts are currently unavailable, McCarthy said.

However, he added, the latest audit was "far less aggressive than during previous years."

In the past, "we had to reshape [the Army's] portfolio," he said, regarding the initial night court.

"If we look at it from the decisions made then to now, over half of our [research, development, and acquisition] account is going toward new capabilities," he said.

The upcoming budget, he said, are the "refinements of those decisions."

In the next 24 months, McCarthy said demonstrations and prototypes will keep coming and with them, "plenty of big muscle movement" decisions will follow.

In the future, modernization priorities may be racked and stacked into tiered spending. Army leaders will have to fully outfit selected units with future procurements instead of "spreading the peanut butter thin," he said.

ALIGNING SFABS WORLDWIDE

Another change McCarthy discussed involved security force assistance brigades, or SFABs, and how their future deployments will expand to the far corners of the world.

Originally created in 2017, SFABs have only since been deployed to Afghanistan.

The new strategy will place SFABs on rotation globally, reminiscent of how Special Forces operates, McCarthy said. This way, the SFABs will be prepositioned worldwide, and if needed, can quickly link up with a regionally-aligned combatant commander in a different area of responsibility.

Also, because of their continued involvement in the AOR, he said, the SFABs will have a greater understanding and awareness of the region they are assigned to.

SFABs will have familiarity with cultural and regional dynamics in the AOR, such as the agriculture, terrain, training alongside local militaries, and other types of experiences needed to be successful in various parts of the world, McCarthy said.

On top of SFAB deployments previously issued for the Pacific, additional missions will include a presence in Africa and South America, McCarthy said. However, in the end, Soldiers will go where they're needed.

If troops need to return to Afghanistan, for example, the secretary of defense can pull them from anywhere in the world to go toward "the sound of guns," McCarthy said.

"The greatest deterrent is boots on the ground with our allies shoulder-to-shoulder worldwide," he said.

INFORMATION WARFARE COMMAND

First announced by Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville during a panel discussion Tuesday, the Army's cyber operations branch will veer its mission toward information warfare, another step in the force's adjustment from the industrial age to the digital.

"McConville is leading an effort to transform our cyber to make an information warfare organization," McCarthy said. "If you look at [Information Warfare Command], it is the phase zero of combat operations where you're in the competition space before there is a bullet fired."

McCarthy believes in the competition space, Soldiers will prepare for near-peer competitors.

The command will adopt technologies like virtual and augmented reality, so Soldiers can train before going anywhere.

"When you start to bring information operations into the fold and how we use space capabilities, that's what's truly going to transform the force from battle operating model to multi-domain operations," McCarthy said.