A group of U.S. senators is pushing for a larger active-duty Army, but senior leaders said that growing the force beyond 450,000 without extra money would be “disastrous.”
Service officials appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcommittee on Tuesday to discuss modernization for the proposed fiscal 2017 Army budget. As with other budget hearings this year, lawmakers expressed concern about Army end-strength.
By fiscal 2018, the Army projects its end-strength to be at a total of 980,000 soldiers, including 450,000 for the active force, 335,000 for the Army National Guard and 195,000 for the Army Reserve, Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia and the subcommittee’s ranking member.
“With all of the new challenges that we have … is the Army able to meet the security needs of the United States?”
Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, deputy chief of staff of the Army’s office for plans and operations, known as the G-3/5/7, told lawmakers that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has testified that “we are at high risk to do that.”
“The best categorization we use for the numbers we are going to now are minimally sufficient,” Anderson said.
Lt. Gen. Herbert McMaster, director of Army Capabilities Integration Center and the deputy commanding general of futures at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said that the “risk will become unacceptable to the national security in terms of the size of the force.
“We have been able to have smaller forces have bigger impact because we were not as challenged in the cyber electromagnetic domain and aerospace domains,” McMaster said. “And we see the demand for land forces going up to do the things you have always wanted land forces to do -- to defeat enemy organizations, but to establish control of territories which is what all these conflicts are about today.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, also agreed that the size of the Army is becoming too small.
“There are a number of us, I think it is a bipartisan sense, that a 450,000 active-duty force is unacceptable risk,” he said.
Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, asked Army leaders to describe the impacts of increasing the force without the additional money.
“There are some ideas in this Congress to mandate a higher level than 450,000, say 480,000, 490,000," he said. "What would be the implications if Congress took that step but did not increase funding?"
“It would be disastrous in terms of our readiness,” McMaster replied, explaining that such a move would put soldiers at a high risk because they may not receive proper training.
Lt. Gen. John M. Murray, deputy chief of staff of the Army’s office for programs, or G-8, said that the service “would not give up readiness” if such an end-strength increase was mandated.
“If you increase the number of soldiers without an increase in [funding,] we would ensure the readiness of our soldiers,” he said.
The Army would have to “start canceling programs” and slowing production across every portfolio as well as making further cuts to modernization and military construction, Murray said.
“So adding higher end-strength without increasing the funding would mean a hollow force unless you borrowed more money from modernization to pay for readiness,” Cotton said.
“Gen. McMaster, approximately how much would it cost to increase 10,000 more troops?”
McMaster said the “rough estimate is approximately $1 billion for every 10,000 soldiers.”
Before this Congress moves forward with mandates on end-strength, it needs to consider raising funding to ensure it doesn’t lead to future cuts to modernization, Cotton said.