Budgetary Jugglers

For the Army, balance between transformation and war is increasingly costly.

Army officials are in the middle of a budgetary juggling act, trying to keep alive their expensive transformation program while at the same time paying for the urgent needs of deployed troops.

In addition to the mounting war bills that will keep budgets tight for years after the end of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is adding 65,000 soldiers to its active-duty ranks-to the tune of $76.3 billion by 2013, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.

The balance between current and future is becoming increasingly precarious for the heavily deployed service, which is finding itself at odds with House members and other skeptics who do not view the service's $160 billion Future Combat Systems program as an affordable reality.

"FCS is in the bull's-eye," says Gordon Adams, the White House Office of Management and Budget associate director of national security programs during the Clinton administration. "And the problem is force expansion and contingency costs and disappearing supplementals."

The Army's problem will be most acute, Adams says, when the U.S. military presence in Iraq shrinks and the massive emergency wartime supplemental spending bills, which pay for many urgent equipment needs, dry up. And FCS, which takes up a major portion of the service's equipment accounts, will be the No. 1 target.

"The flying fickle finger of budgetary fate tends to point at procurement, especially in the Army," Adams says. The Army, more so than the technology-heavy Air Force and Navy, "is a force-structure-heavy capability."

A complex system of manned and un-manned air and land vehicles tied together by an intricate network, FCS is by far the most expensive and ambitious technological undertaking in the Army's history. For the service's leaders, the program means survival in the future against increasingly sophisticated and adaptable foes.

But the price tag for FCS has grown significantly over the years and now tops $160 billion-an unheard-of sum for a ground combat program. Its annual budget rivals those of the $250 billion Joint Strike Fighter and other air and sea platforms.

For some in Congress, that is simply too expensive at a time when deployed soldiers need new tactical vehicles, body armor and other equipment for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They view programs like the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, whose V-shaped hull better shields against roadside bombs, as bigger spending priorities.

Indeed, the House's version of the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill guts $867 million from the Army's $3.7 billion request for the program. In July, the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee trimmed $406 million from the program. At press time, the House was poised to send the defense appropriations bill to the floor.

Luckily, the Senate's authorization measure adds some funding to the program, and at press time, Senate appropriators were expected to at least approve the budget request. Still, that could mean a $400 million or more cut to the program in the final versions of the bill-an amount, Army officials have said, that would be difficult to swallow.

Despite the budgetary challenges, the Army continues to push hard for FCS, which they say will give troops a significant leg up in future operations. In a May letter to Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Army Chief of Staff George Casey warned that the House cuts would have severe ramifications for FCS and perhaps imperil future soldiers.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.