- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Army’s new Futures Command, designed to usher the tradition-bound service into the next generation of warfare, could fall victim to Congress’ budget ax if House defense lawmakers have their way.

Members of the House Armed Services Committee are demanding Army leaders justify why the new command — and the slew of new weapons and equipment that come with it — are needed, and why the money wouldn’t be better spent elsewhere.

House committee staffers said Army officials have yet to make a convincing argument the command is the best way to guide the service’s transition away from the post 9/11 focus on terrorism to a proposed new focus on traditional nation-state rivals, led by China and Russia.

“There is still a lot to sort out [and] the Army is working through those issues,” ranging from the command’s growing list of future combat requirements, weapons research and development and acquisition authorities, one senior committee staffer told reporters this week.

The Futures Command was established last August for developing how, where and with what weapons the ground service would fight the next-generation wars of the 21st century. The work at the command heavily influenced the service’s $182.3 billion share of the Pentagon’s $718 billion budget plan for FY2020, an $8 billion uptick over last year’s Army budget.

The Army proposal, heavily influenced by policies from Futures Command, called for cutting-edge weapons and combat systems such as extreme long-range artillery and advanced air and missile defenses — equipment service leaders say they need to carry out its new multidomain strategy.

Additional investments in unmanned systems, artificial intelligence and cyberwarfare will allow the Army to keep up with efforts by Moscow and Beijing to modernize their militaries, service leaders say.

“You have to get yourself into a position of advantage, and that requires ground maneuver,” said Army Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, deputy chief for Futures Command, told reporters in March. “We can enable [combat] superiority from the ground … and what we are trying to do is restore that.”

The plan is arguably the most strategically ambitious of all those being put forth by service leaders this fiscal year, with the ground service standing to lose the most if it cannot successfully make the case for its role in the Pentagon’s Russia- and China-centric National Defense Strategy released last January.

House defense lawmakers are requesting a slew of new reviews on the Army’s aviation and long-range artillery programs.

The first review on Army aviation calls upon Army Secretary Mark Esper to submit a “comprehensive strategy” for the service’s aviation efforts by next March. The second review requires acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan to provide a plan focusing on the integration of long-range artillery weapons into operations in the Pacific and European theaters.

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