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Army Lumbers Into Future: $33B IN 2020 Budget For Big 6, Some Day « Breaking Defense

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The Army has cut upgrades for its M2 Bradley troop carrier because it plans to replace it as soon as possible with a Next Generation Combat Vehicle.

PENTAGON: The Army’s five-year spending plan moves a whopping $32.8 billion from 186 cut or canceled programs to its Big Six modernization priorities, aimed at a future war with Russia or China. That’s well above what we were hearing just last month and 30 percent above the service’s original target of $25 billion.

Army photo

Ryan McCarthy

But we’ll only see a modest down payment in the 2020 budget request. Most of the money is in the outyears, which means it may or may not ever happen. Over time, more and more of the “legacy” programs will go away as the new systems move from relatively inexpensive R&D to much more costly mass production, Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy said. For 2020, though,

  • Army procurement is actually slightly down, from $22.1 billion in 2019 to $21.8 in 2020,
  • Research, Development, Testing, & Evaluation (RDTE) is up, not quite as slightly, from $11.1 billion in ’19 to $12.2 in ’20.
  • There’s a particularly strong spike in prototyping — aka Demonstration & Validation (Budget Activity 4) — which more than doubles, from $1.2 billion last year to $2.9 in the budget request. Earlier phases of RDTE, collectively called Science & Technology (S&T), stay effectively flat, while the phases that follow prototyping rise somewhat.
  • Overall, Army modernization rises slightly, from $33 billion last year to $34 billion in the request. That’s still well below the recent peak of $37 billion back in 2018.

If my ground force friends will pardon a naval metaphor, the Army is like a big ship — an aircraft carrier, say, or maybe the Titanic — that takes a long, long time to turn around.

CH-47F Chinook

Today’s 2020 budget roll-out was painfully short on details, and no outyear figures came out at all, but we can see the shape of the future Army starting to emerge through the fog.

  • As expected, the Army cuts upgrades of its venerable and increasingly overloaded M2 Bradley troop carrier, whose replacement is the first priority for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle program, the No. 2 priority of the Big Six.
  • The 2020 budget also cuts the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, essentially a more survivable super-Humvee. I understand the planned Army-Marine buy of 50,000 JLTVs (over many years) is being reduced.
  • Upgrades to the Vietnam-vintage H-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopter continue, but I’ve been told the Army will only upgrade enough MH-47 variants for Special Operations and won’t purchase any CH-47 upgrades for the regular Army as originally planned. Count on Boeing to fight back on that.
  • The 8×8 Stryker armored vehicle and an array of smart weapons programs — Hellfire missiles, Guided MLRS Rockets, and ATACMS — are being ramped up.

Just to complicate the picture further, the Army’s real budget request for 2020, counting both the base budget and what’s been shunted to the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, totals $182.3 billion. But the administration has parked another $9.2 billion in “emergency funds” in the Army budget, most of it destined to build Trump’s border wall.

Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. photo

Oshkosh Joint Light Tactical Vehicle fitted with anti-aircraft missiles and machinegun.

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