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AUSA: Army Budget Request Leaves Much Work for Congress to Do

February 06, 2003

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The administration's budget request of $93.9 billion for the Army raises questions about its commitment to land forces and leaves the incoming 108th Congress with much work to do.

Most of the $3 billion increase over Fiscal Year 2003's appropriation is taken up in fixed costs -- inflation, pay increases, medical care, housing, etc., and we are grateful for this and promises kept.

The Army cancellation of 24 programs, including the Abrams SEP and upgrading the Bradley fighting vehicle -- and the restructuring of 24 others to pay for transformation -- is troubling to the Association of the United States Army.

The Association has argued the need to maintain the Army's strategic advantage and to continue modernizing the legacy force.

Congress responded positively to this position.

AUSA noted this in its special "Good News, But..." scorecard for the second session of the 107th Congress posted on the Association's website.

AUSA very soon may see how vitally important the Abrams SEP and Bradley programs were to the 4th Infantry Division, now deploying to the Persian Gulf.

These programs and others make the difference in letting soldiers know "where I am, where my buddies are and where the enemy is."

Also the need for increased end strength in the active force and increased full-time manning in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve could not be more evident.

The use of "stop-loss" orders and continuing mobilized reservists on active duty for a second year show the active Army is seriously undermanned and under-structured.

AUSA's resolutions, adopted this fall, call for a rise in active duty end strength to 525,000 soldiers.

But the budget request does not even provide money for 8,000 of the 488,000 soldiers in the active force.

So once again, AUSA will have to wait for a supplemental appropriation to be submitted to cover that cost, the costs of continuing operations in Afghanistan and possible costs if the nation goes to war with Iraq.

"We are already mortgaging the fourth quarter," one senior defense official said about the request in explaining how funds set aside for training and maintenance would have to be moved to cover daily operating expenses.

He added later, "We may even be looking at the third quarter" in describing the "peacetime budget."

AUSA certainly applauds the 4.1 percent pay increase, reducing out-of- pocket housing expenses for soldiers, expanding the housing privatization program and keeping the barracks improvement program on target.

The Association also applauds the Office of the Secretary of Defense for moving dollars to meet its 10 goals of transformation.

AUSA must continue to argue for the Army chief of staff's goal of "irreversible momentum" for Army transformation -- in sync with OSD's -- and that it must be resourced.

What AUSA sees in this request is the Department of Defense's unwillingness to raise the Army's top line, and instead is relying on the Army to "take it out of hide."

Robbing Peter to pay Paul is no way to budget for the nation's security in today's world.

Source: AUSA


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