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ARLINGTON, Va. — If the Bush administration’s decision to provide funds for just four brigades centered around the Army’s future combat vehicle survives the 2004 budget process, the service’s attempts to modernize will suffer a setback, Army advocates said.

The Army’s attempts to modernize will suffer a major setback if the Bush administration’s decision to provide funds for only four brigades survives the 2004 budget process, Army advocates said.

The Pentagon has yet to unveilits 2004 budget request to Congress, but Pentagon officials have said that the document will not include seed money for the fifth and sixth planned “Stryker Brigades.”

Ted Stroup, a retired Army lieutenant general who is now a vice president at the Association of the United States Army, was once the Army’s Stryker program manager.

“That’s too bad,” said Ted Stroup, a retired Army lieutenant general, who also was the program manager for the Stryker.

“The Pentagon’s civilian leadership have decided to take some risk by not providing research and development seed money for the fifth and sixth Stryker brigades,” said Stroup, now a vice president of the Association of the United States Army.

The first major weapons system purchased by the Army in 14 years, the Stryker is the light-armored, wheeled centerpiece of the Army’s project to bridge the gap between the current Army and the smaller, faster, technology-intense future Army.

The Army’s so-called “transformation” plans call for more than 2,131 Strykers to be purchased from the vehicle’s principal maker, General Dynamics Land Systems, by 2010.

But while the 2004 budget proposal will include about $14 billion more than the 2003 budget, or $378 billion instead of $364 billion, the Stryker program will be slowed down — and the service’s advocates are concerned.

“AUSA is not happy about it,” Stroup said. “Army senior leadership had laid out a good plan” for the Stryker.

AUSA is based in Alexandria, Va., and boasts a board of directors packed with former Army generals, including its president, Gen. Bill Sullivan, a former Army Chief of Staff. Active-duty Army leaders are forbidden by law to lobby Congress, so AUSA acts as the Army’s unofficial voice.

Meanwhile, the Army budget request also will include money to fund 650 Comanche helicopters, instead of the 819 helicopters the Army has said it needs. The lower number focuses on the version that performs reconnaissance, eliminating the birds that would perform “deep attack.”

Stroup said the organization is going to work to convince legislators to add back the money for the fifth and sixth brigades, and for the additional helicopters.

“We will continue to articulate publicly that the requirement is six Stryker Brigades, not four, and Comanche is 819,” Stroup said.

Congress is due to receive the Bush military budget outline in January.


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