Army 2015 Budget Kills GCV, Cuts Readiness

Army budget officials presented a spending plan that cuts readiness and kills the Ground Combat Vehicle.

Army budget officials presented the service’s fiscal 2015 budget today, a spending plan that cuts readiness, kills the Ground Combat Vehicle and places a new priority on replacing obsolete vehicles such as the Humvee and the M113 armored personnel carrier.

Steep defense spending cuts under sequestration have forced the Army to adopt strategy that focuses on near-term readiness, a move that will restrict training for many combat units, shrink aviation assets and delay high-priority modernization efforts, Army Maj. Gen. Karen Dyson, director of the Army budget office, said during a March 4 Pentagon briefing.

The $120.5 billion base budget request does not yet include Overseas Contingency Operations budget and funds active force of 490,000, a National Guard of 350,000 and a Reserve of 202,000. The Pentagon’s fiscal 2015 defense budget calls for more cuts to Army end strength, reducing the active force to a size of 440,000 to 450,000 by 2019.

Priority will be given to units serving in Korea and rapid-deployment brigade combat teams in the Army “contingency force,” which would likely be made up of have two armor BCTs, two Stryker BCTs, two infantry BCTs, one aviation brigade and combat support units, according to Army officials.

“The Army is building readiness at higher levels inside of a contingency force, while all other units not designated into the contingency force will not be funded to achieve full readiness,” Dyson said. “For those units who are not assigned to one of these categories … training is intended to reach only to company level and in some cases to battalion level.”

A recent aviation review will result in the Army in restructuring its aviation formations into leaner and more efficient forces, budget officials said.

The service plans to cut three aviation brigades from the active force by 2019.  Reserve components will retain their12 aviation brigades but will be restructured for assault, lift and medevac missions, budget officials say. The National Guard will get another 111 UH-60s to enhance its medial-lift capability and retain its CH-47s and UH-72A helicopters. But all National Guard AH- 64 Apache helicopters will be transferred to the active component, budget officials said.

The budget also officially kills the Ground Combat Vehicle, the Army’s high-priority modernization program to replace the M2 Bradley fighting vehicle. Lawmakers in January cut GCV funding by $492 million, or 83 percent. The move left the Army with $100 million instead of the $592 million it had requested to continue developing the program in fiscal 2014.

Budget officials have shifted the priority to the new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle as a replacement for the Vietnam-War-era M113 armored personnel carrier. Budget officials said the service will likely to award an engineering, manufacturing and development contract in 2015.

The Army budget plan also funds a low-rate initial production contract for 176 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles as part of a joint Army-Marine program to replace the Humvee.