The Army is seeking a big boost in new weapons for combat-arms units in its 2022 budget request, but the force may see a deep cut to the amount of ammunition it has to train with amid more than half-a-billion dollars in cuts to bullets and things that go boom.
President Joe Biden's fiscal 2022 budget request, released Friday, outlined every weapon system the Army has. Most notably, the administration wants to invest heavily in replacements for the M4 carbine and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gun.
The Pentagon is asking for a $36 million boost to the Next Generation Squad Weapon program for the Army, raising the total 2022 costs to $97 million, far outpacing any other weapon program in the service. This translates to it buying 12,217 new weapons. In 2021, it bought 3,983.
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Sig, Textron Systems and General Dynamics are competing for contracts in the Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon, or NGSW, effort, designed to begin arming units with a rifle and automatic rifle chambered for a specially designed 6.8mm projectile.
All three companies have designed new rifle and machine gun prototypes soldiers have already been testing out. The Army is expected to make a decision on who will supply the force with new weapons and start fielding them next year.
While some grunts might be getting new guns soon, it's possible soldiers will get less range time in 2022. The Army's budget calls for sweeping cuts to its ammo budget. Overall ammo spending in 2022 could be $2.1 billion, down sharply from $2.8 billion this year.
The service is asking for $331 million for small- and medium-caliber ammo, a significant drop
from the $470 million it spent this year. Spending on mortar rounds could drop by $13 million.
The Army's rocket budget would take a huge hit, dropping from $229 million to $134 million. Spending on artillery rounds will be cut by 36%, with $425 allocated next year as opposed to $666 million this year.
Funding for tank ammo and mortar rounds is also facing a slight decrease.
The only type of munition to get a budget boost was mines, rising from $54 million to $61 million.
Beyond new weapons, the Army also wants to invest more in most of its current ground combat arsenal, especially when it comes to blowing things up. The service wants more Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles, asking for an extra $9 million for the anti-tank weapon and raising the total cost to $32 million in 2022.
Spending on mortar systems is expected to rise from $21 million to $37 million; M203 grenade launcher spending is rising from $6 million to $9 million.
The M240B machine gun has no new investments coming up, and the stock of weapons will stay as is.
The administration's $715 billion defense budget mostly focuses on competition with China. Biden is requesting a relatively flat Pentagon budget, taking heat from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill for spending too much or not enough. Congress has the final say, but the administration's budget serves as a blueprint.
Within that budget, the Army is taking a hit. The administration is asking for $173 billion, a drop from this year’s $176.6 billion. The 2022 budget calls for 1,010,500 soldiers including the reserve elements, a slight drop from 1,012,200 current level.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.