U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Rep. Harold Rogers had a somewhat tense exchange on Thursday over the Army's proposed cuts to aviation assets.
The Republican from Kentucky and chairman the full House Appropriations Committee questioned the Army's plans to cut another combat aviation brigade over the next three years leaving service with just 10 in the active force.
A recent report from the National Commission on the Future of the Army recommends keeping 11 combat aviation brigades and retaining a forward-stationed aviation brigade in Korea.
Rogers pointed out that the first CAB eliminated was in his home state of Kentucky last year when the Army deactivated the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell.
“The president’s budget claims to prioritize the modernization of the Army’s helicopter fleet yet opts to cut the aviation procurement account by 35 percent,” he said. “It is difficult to understand why aviation has been so heavily targeted.”
Rogers later added, “You don’t really think we are going to go along with these cuts to Army aviation?"
Milley said it all comes down to money.
“Would we like what the commission wants to do? Roger that. We’d love to … but they don’t come with a checkbook,” the general said.
Aviation is a critical component to the Army, but infantry and armored units are in equally high demand by combatant commanders, Milley said.
“I love helicopters; I have been in a lot of firefights over the years and my first call is to get an attack helicopter, he said. "I love Air Force Aviation. I love fixed wing. I love that stuff. I am and infantryman by trade and a special operator and there is nothing more valuable to us on the ground than something that flies in the air and there is nothing more lethal to the enemy.
“But at the same time, wars are won on the ground, so we have to maintain our infantry and our armor," he added.
Milley said he is opened to discuss the issue, but said proposed budget strikes the right balance between readiness and modernization.
Rogers asked, “So you are not going to listen to the recommendations?”
To which, Milley replied, “We are listening to the recommendations, very closely. We want to execute some of them, but they came with no money. There is no money associated with them. If someone says ‘if you do these recommendations, here is the money to execute them,’ then that is great.”