Army budget delays GCV, protects network

The Army's base budget is the least of the three major services and 1.7 percent less than what the service is expected to receive this year.

The U.S. Army’s fiscal 2014 budget would delay development of the Ground Combat Vehicle by more than a year while funding programs to improve its battlefield communications network.

The ground service stands to lose at least $2.27 billion under the Defense Department’s spending plan unveiled yesterday for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The reduction is part of a larger Pentagon strategy to shift emphasis away from the ground wars of the past decade and toward threats in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Army’s base budget, which excludes funding for the war in Afghanistan, would total $130 billion. That’s the least of the three major services and 1.7 percent less than what the Army is expected to receive this year.

The service is also grappling this year with automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, and shortfalls in war funding due to higher-than-expected transportation costs. The situation is straining all operating budgets within the military, especially the Army’s, officials said.

“Army has biggest problem,” according to a budget briefing slide. The result is many non-deployed units won’t be ready for missions by the end of this year. In addition, training and flying hours for active-duty soldiers are projected to slide next year.

The Army’s active-duty component would decrease by 32,100 soldiers, or 5.8 percent, to 520,000 soldiers. The budget would provide a 1 percent increase in basic pay, a 3.9 percent rise in basic allowance for housing, and a 3.4 percent bump in basic allowance for subsistence.

The service is requesting $1.7 billion less to buy and develop weapons than it did last year. “The reduction reflects the Army’s acceptance of measured risk to accommodate a tightening fiscal environment,” according to a briefing from Maj. Gen. Karen Dyson, director of the Army budget, and her deputy, Davis Welch.

The Army plans to delay by 18 months development of the Ground Combat Vehicle, a new tracked vehicle to replace a portion of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle fleet. The plan, which may be in jeopardy, is to extend the period to develop the technology and to pick one rather than two contractors for the prototyping phase, known as engineering and manufacturing development.

General Dynamics Corp., based in Falls Church, Virginia, and the U.S. subsidiary of London-based BAE Systems PLC have received contracts valued at about $450 million apiece to develop the systems.

Meantime, the service would keep funding improvements to its battlefield network, which it now describes as its “foremost investment priority.” The Army plans to spend $4.3 billion next year procuring electronics and communications equipment, almost half of which is slated for network-related programs.

These include the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, a satellite communications system for the war zone; Joint Tactical Radio System, a family of digital radios for troops and vehicles; Joint Battle Command – Platform, a software system to track troop movements; and Distributed Common Ground System, a network of workstations, servers and other computer equipment.

Soldiers with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, are deploying to Afghanistan this spring with the service’s next-generation communications system that includes smart phone-compatible radios developed under the Joint Tactical Radio System and Nett Warrior programs.

The Army also plans to spend more than $5 billion buying aircraft, including 65 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, 38 CH-47F Chinook helicopters and 19 MQ-1 Gray Eagle drones; $2.1 billion purchasing medium-duty trucks, vehicles and generators, among other support equipment; and $1.6 billion acquiring Strykers and upgrading the Paladin self-propelled howitzer, Bradley and M1 Abrams tank, among other weapons and tracked vehicles.