The Biden administration is proposing a $3.6 billion budget cut for the U.S. Army in fiscal 2022, a reduction that some defense analysts say is “devastating” and could compromise readiness and training, and force soldiers to go without some of the equipment they need to defend the nation.
In rolling out their $173 billion blueprint, Army leaders conceded that they needed to make “deliberate decisions to fund the highest priority requirements” to meet the lower figure.
Much of the decrease, officials say, can be tied to reductions and shifts to the Army‘s force posture in the Middle East. The Army‘s operations and maintenance request, for example, is down about $700 million because of the military’s rapidly shrinking ground combat footprint in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region.
But some conservative analysts say the administration appears willing to sacrifice America’s national defense to pay for its domestic social priorities.
“We’ve all seen the left’s push to ‘defund the police.’ This DoD budget proposal essentially equates to ‘defunding the military,’” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, now the director of the Center for National Defense at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “The effects of Biden’s cut in military purchasing power will result in reduced training, reduced readiness, cuts in needed equipment programs, and a lower quality of life for service members.”
On the Army specifically, Lt. Gen. Spoehr said the proposed budget cuts are a huge mistake.
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“This is a devastating budget for the U.S. Army,” he said in an analysis circulated to reporters Friday afternoon. “Dozens of Army procurement programs such as those for helicopters, combat vehicles and weapons were slashed in this budget. This will result in soldiers continuing to operate the vehicles delivered in the 1980s. Readiness and training funds were also cut deeply, which will impact readiness.”
The Army also is looking at a major reduction in funding for research and development, though such funding is up across other corners of the Pentagon.
The total proposed 2022 budget for the Defense Department is $715 billion, about $11 billion higher than the 2021 enacted level. By defense-spending standards, such an increase is quite low.
Military officials said they have made a conscious decision to prioritize future technologies such as artificial intelligence and hypersonic weapons.
“This budget … is biasing the future over the present, slightly,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers Thursday. “We are trying to put down payments on investments that are going to pay huge dividends 10, 15 years from now for a future force that will be able to compete successfully with any adversary out there, to include China.”
Army officials are pushing back hard against the notion that the budget is too small and fails to fund the necessary priorities.
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“This budget puts people first, maintains force readiness and continues the irreversible modernization momentum to develop next-generation capabilities to fight and win now and in future joint all-domain operations,” said Christopher Lowman, senior official performing the duties of the under secretary of the Army.
In its own documents accompanying Friday’s budget release, the Army highlights that the military pay request is $1.2 billion higher than the previous enacted year. Army officials also said they’re seeking budget increases in other areas.
“The budget request includes funding for Army housing and barracks, provides increased support for the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention program, civilian talent management, plus a 2.7% civilian pay raise,” the Army said. “It also increases funding for child care by expanding access to the Army Fee Assistance Program and continues efforts to attract and retain high-quality child care providers.”
But the Army is looking at cuts elsewhere. For example, the budget proposes to cut more than $12 million for multi-function electronic warfare systems, $9 million for Hellfire missile launchers and $9.3 million for lightweight counter-mortar radars.
• Mike Glenn contributed to this report.