The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing about the U.S. Army’s 2022 budget. Secretary Wormuth and General McConville testified on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 – defending the Biden administration’s cuts to the Army’s budget for 2022. They both said the U.S. Army is “ready to fight” and said that the budget has the right priorities for the conflicts of the future.
The hearing was entitled “The Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for the Department of the Army”. The purpose was to allow the committee to receive testimony from the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff on the FY22 budget request, priorities, and key issues as they relate to the service.
Some of the themes throughout the testimony of all the services before the House and Senate were reflected in this hearing as well. These include the modernization effort of the Army, the recognition of the changes in warfare brought about by technology and great power competition, readiness, and training. In addition, diversity, sexual assault, sexual harassment, racism, housing standards, and extremism have been common topics.
Secretary Wormuth, in her opening remarks and during testimony, stated that the Army must continue to invest in people, ensuring that the right programs are in place to ensure that eliminate racism, sexual assault and harassment, and suicide. She said that the Army is in the lead for incorporating new technology. Wormuth stressed the importance of partnerships and allies in the Indo-Pacific region – emphasizing that having a continual relationship will help in responding to future crisis and conflicts. She believes that modernization is the key to preparing the U.S. Army for the next conflict – which will be in an all domain environment.
General McConville reiterated the comments in his opening remarks and during testimony by the Secretary saying that the Army is on the right path with its prioritization on people, readiness, and modernization. He also mentioned the importance of reducing racism, extremism, sexual assault and harassment, and suicides. He stated that changes in leadership training and mentoring should begin at the small unit level – from the squad, to the platoon, and then higher – to build an Army that recognizes the importance of each soldier. He shared his vision of ‘peace through strength’ as a way of winning wars – especially in the Indo-Pacific region.
Politics, Of Course. The Democratic and Republication representatives stuck to their usual talking points during the question and answering session. Each representative was allocated five minutes each for their respective Q and A. Major themes for the Democrats were topics related to racism, extremism, sexual harassment and assault, and suicide. Republicans voiced concerns over the budget cuts that the Army will experience in 2022 – sometimes questioning the lack of funding priority of specific programs. Many of the representatives had several topics in common that they had questions on, to include military housing, suicide, and infrastructure. Some of the testimony touched on the topics listed below.
Modernization. Mentioned several times in the testimony by the Secretary and the Chief were the 6 focus areas for Army modernization, the 31 plus 4 systems, and the need to be ready for conflict in the Indo-Pacific region. Both Army leaders consistently stated that the priority of the Army 2022 budget was modernization. They repeatedly defended the emphasis on modernization over other pressing priorities citing the refocus from the counterterrorism (CT) and counterinsurgency (COIN) mission of the past two decades to one of preparing for great power competition or GPC. They cited the modernization of China’s military and the aggressive foreign policy of both Russia and China as the number one defense concern – and that modernization was the key to competing with both of these nations in the future.
Budget Cuts. Some representatives stated their concerns that the modernization programs may take time to come on board and that equipment currently in use need some significant upgrades. They pointed to decreases in spending for force strength, equipment upgrades, munition procurements, some research and development programs, and other examples. The answers by the Secretary and Chief were consistent – priority is being given to force modernization without sacrificing the ability of the U.S. Army to respond to current crisis or conflicts. The R&D programs were scrutinized and priority given to the more important R&D projects.
Priority of Spending. Some representatives questioned the lack of priority for some programs. The Secretary and Chief were quick to point out that many of these programs were listed in the Unfunded Requirements List and that if Congress had some additional money then the Army would gladly accept it. Throughout the testimony they stressed that the Army has to balance spending on people, readiness, and modernization – and that hard choices were made.
Enduring Programs. The Army leaders stressed that some ‘legacy’ programs and equipment did not receive prioritization due to replacements that would soon come on line and the recognition that money spent on this older equipment is best spent on ‘enduring’ programs and modernization. They pointed out that funding for some ‘enduring’ programs like the Abrams tank, UH-60 Blackhawk, and AH-64 Apache remains in place.
Multi-Domain Task Force. The Army is establishing three task forces for future conflicts. One will be regionally aligned to Europe and two aligned to the Indo-Pacific. Representative Strickland (WA) asked the Secretary to consider basing an additional Multi-Domain Task Force in Washington State – providing reasons why that would be good for the Army. The Secretary diplomatically said that will be considered and the decision will be based on what is good for the Army and national defense.
Social Issues. The topics of diversity, racism, extremism, suicide, and sexual assault and harassment were repeatedly raised. The answers by McConville were consistent – to begin at the foundational level to build a cohesive team where everyone respects one another. He stated that many of the problems are found among junior soldiers in the 18 to early 20s age range. He believes that the command culture needs some work to ensure units and unit leaders are taking care of people. The Secretary mentioned that the Army’s SHARP program is being revitalized and updated and that the command selection process will take into account past command climate performance.
Questions on Specific Programs and Issues. Some representatives spent their time asking about very specific items such as long-range precision fires, integrated air defense systems, ‘crushing’ optempo, deterrence in the Baltics, sensor to shooter systems, Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs), combat aviation, Global Defender Exercise, domestic missions and the national guard, reduction of CTC rotations from 24 to 17, and others. Probably one of the best few minutes of the testimony were the questions (gender neutral physical training testing, emphasis on Air Force and Navy in Indo-Pacific, restructuring of the National Guard based on population, and is the budget for the Army large enough) asked by Representative Mike Waltz.
SOF. Representative Murphy (FL), a member of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, asked how the Army’s special operations forces (ARSOF) are adapting to and improving training for the refocus from CT/COIN to GPC. The Secretary response stressed that the shift from CT/COIN to GPC has been ongoing and continues. She said that ARSOF is still needed in a GPC environment and that training scenarios are changing to incorporate the changes outlined in the Irregular Warfare Annex to the National Defense Strategy. General McConville stated that SOF has done an incredible job the past 20 years. He stated that CT/COIN is not going away, however he said SOF is very agile and can perform both the CT/COIN missions as well as the future fight with near-peer adversaries. McConville stated that SOF is uniquely suited to working with allies and partners in the combatant regions they are aligned to – and that SOF will continue to help partners build their CT capability. The Secretary briefly discussed the ‘resistance capability‘ that US Special Forces can enhance in the Baltic nations.
The Secretary and Chief of Staff answered almost all of the questions posed to them – sometimes with the same answer: force modernization has taken priority over many of the other important programs of the Army due to the need to meet the competition posed by Russia and China. There were a few occasions when the Secretary or Chief did not have a satisfactory answer and they promised to get back to the committee member posing the question. Overall the hearing was cordial and lacked some of the drama associated with some other Senate and House hearings on defense issues that took place earlier in the week.
Video: The entire testimony can be viewed at the link below:
U.S. Army 2022 Budget Hearing
The Army’s Modernization Strategy: Congressional Oversight Considerations, CRS-R46216, February 7, 2020.
Photo: General James McConville. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on June 25, 2021.