Recruiting, China, modernizing the force among top priorities in Army’s $185B budget proposal
Stars and Stripes March 13, 2023
WASHINGTON — The Army’s budget request for fiscal 2024 seeks $185 billion that includes funding increases to attract and retain soldiers, stabilize the Indo-Pacific region and procure new weapons, service officials said Monday.
The service’s budget proposal, which is a slight increase from 2023, accounts for less than 25% of the Defense Department’s overall budget of $842 billion for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Army officials said the discretionary funding request for next year is centered mostly on modernization, personnel and improving readiness.
“As [China] races to modernize its military, this budget will sharpen our edge by making critical investments across all timeframes, theaters, and domains,” defense officials said in a statement. “This budget makes the department's largest-ever investments in readiness and procurement — and our largest investment in research and development.”
Many of the Army’s year-to-year budget items in the proposal do not increase from 2023 funding, but the service is requesting more than $15 billion in additional spending for personnel matters to make greater investments in troops, families and civilian staffers amid ongoing struggles with recruiting.
“People are our No. 1 priority,” Undersecretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo told reporters at the Pentagon. “There are significant uncertainties regarding the recruiting market.”
Last year, the Army aimed for 60,000 new recruits but attracted only about 45,000. This year, its recruiting goal is 65,000. Officials said Monday that the new budget request includes almost $390 million to fund marketing and advertising portfolios in a bid to attract enlistees.
Last week, the Army announced a rebranding campaign that included a refreshed logo and the resurrection of its famous slogan — “Be All You Can Be.”
Also part of the 2024 budget request is $13 million to expand the Army’s Future Soldier Prep Course, a program designed to educate young American students about military life and help them prepare for and pass the military’s academic and physical eligibility requirements. Instituted in 2022, officials said the program has been highly successful so far. Fewer than 25% of all young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 can meet military eligibility requirements, according to the most recent Pentagon data.
About $290 million will fund enhancing operations within the Army’s recruiting command and the budget request aims to fund a force of 452,000 active-duty soldiers in fiscal 2024.
Camarillo said the Army expects “it will take several years” to overcome its current recruiting challenges — something that Army Secretary Christine Wormuth has also acknowledged.
Other priorities laid out in the Army’s budget blueprint include $72 billion for operations and maintenance, $23 billion for weapons procurement and $16 billion for research and development.
Some of the weapons priorities in the Army’s budget include about $1.4 billion to procure Patriot and Tomahawk missiles, $220 million for 155mm artillery shells and almost $500 million on the Next Generation Squad Weapon — a new rifle that’s been in development for years — and ammunition. If Congress approves the funds, they will pay for more than 18,000 of the new rifles and 21 million rounds of ammo.
“[The Army’s proposed budget] enables us to continue our momentum on the modernization programs, fully fund our efforts to address recruiting and to effectuate the National Defense Strategy,” Camarillo said.
The Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy, issued last fall, identified China as the top pacing challenge for the U.S. and underscored the importance of maintaining stability in the Indo-Pacific region — something the Army’s budget also aims to do.
Concerns about China expanding its influence in the region have risen in recent months with the discovery of a Chinese surveillance balloon over the United States and occasional provocative movements in the South China Sea, including the Taiwan Strait. Beijing has long claimed Taiwan as a breakaway territory and has expressed a desire to “reunify” with the island.
The Army’s budget request also includes almost $1.5 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, a program designed to develop advanced capabilities, new operational concepts and build a more resilient force posture in the Indo-Pacific. Also included is funding for “contested logistics” and efforts to expand the Army’s engagement in the region.
Here are a few other priorities from the Army’s budget request for fiscal 2024:
• $1.9 billion on continued investment in future vertical lift helicopters.
• $1.1 billion on continued investment in the long-range hypersonic weapons.
• $287.5 million for five new barracks projects.
• $709 million on efforts to expand access to child care.
• $290 million to strengthen prevention of sexual assault and response.
• $230 million to implement suicide prevention measures.
• $583 million on Army community services and morale, welfare and recreation.
• $900 million for 115 military exercises worldwide, including 33 in Indo-Pacific.
• More than $500 million on cybersecurity tools and infrastructure.