WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is requesting a $185.5 billion budget in fiscal 2024 meant to advance its modernization programs even as it grapples with recruiting challenges, the war in Ukraine and rising inflation, according to service officials.
The request marks a 4.6% increase over the Army’s $178 billion budget last year. Taking into account inflation, the Army’s FY24 budget would fall about 2% below that of what was enacted for FY23, Maj. Gen. Mark Bennett, the service’s budget director, told reporters in a briefing last Friday.
Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo said the budget still “enables us to fully fund our needs to meet the National Defense Strategy,” but the Army faces “a generational challenge right now in terms of recruiting.” As a result, he said during the same briefing, the budget prioritizes people.
The Army’s planned end strength in FY24 is 452,000 active duty troops, 325,000 National Guardsmen and 174,800 in Army Reserve. In FY23, the Army planned for a force of 473,000 in the active force, 336,000 in the Guard and 189,500 in the Reserve.
The service expected to increase its end strength back to 485,000 active duty soldiers within five years as part of its FY23 budget.
“We think [recruiting] is a longer term challenge,” Camarillo said. “We certainly are pulling a lot of levers to include in this budget that we’re continuing from ‘23 and going into ‘24 to help address that challenge.”
He pointed to the expansion of the Future Soldier Prep Course as well as more money for advertising and recruiting incentives.
The Army is requesting $69.8 billion in personnel funding, up from the $52.3 billion Congress enacted to cover Army personnel costs in FY23.
The service also plans to spend $288 million on barracks, including five new barracks projects, which is part of a 10-year, $10 billion investment plan.
The Army is seeking $72.1 billion in total for operations and maintenance, compared to $59 billion approved by Congress in FY23. And the service is asking for $2.8 billion in its military construction account. The service asked for just $845 million in FY23.
The Army has long planned for a fully modernized force by 2030 and is facing several key milestones on the road to delivering 36 signature weapons systems in the next decade.
“This budget allows us to maintain significant continuity in our modernization strategy, as we have always said, maintaining emphasis on the six modernization key areas,” Camarillo said.
The Army’s plans to spend $15.8 billion in research and development in FY24, down from $17.2 billion enacted in FY23.
The service is seeking $23.4 billion in procurement, nearly the same as the $23.6 billion approved by Congress the prior year.
In FY24, the service is planning to field its first unit equipped with its Mid-Range Capability missile, which will be able to strike ships. The Army is asking for $380 million in research and development and another $170 million in procurement for the program in FY24.
The Army is requesting $273 million to work on future increments of its Precision Strike Missile, or PrSM, and another $384 million to buy 110 Increment 1 missiles, slated for delivery in the fourth quarter of FY24.
A total of $944 million will go into further research and development of the Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon, or LRHW, and another $157 million in procurement to buy missiles for the first unit equipped, which has already received its launchers and supporting equipment.
The Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System will go to the first headquarters battalion in FY24, and the Army will also deliver counter-small unmanned aircraft system prototypes in the third quarter of FY24.
The Next Generation Squad Weapon is slated for fielding to the first unit equipped in the second quarter of FY4.
Of the 24 new Army systems slated to make it into the hands of soldiers by the end of 2023, only one program, the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, might miss that goal, according to Army acquisition chief Doug Bush.
The operational evaluation of ERCA, Bush said, revealed “engineering challenges,” and the service will know more in a few months about how it will proceed with the program.
The Army is also facing delays in several of its other modernization programs outside of the 24. The Lower Tier Air-and-Missile Defense System and the Improved Turbine Engine Program are both delayed, Bush said, “because as we go into testing, we are running into some challenges.”
The delays are “not dramatic,” he added. “This is normal, this is advanced technology. There are always some delays. So it’s a question of manageable delays and whether we understand them and in all of these cases, I believe we do.”
The budget also helps advance the Army’s pivot to the Pacific, Camarillo said, which is a key priority in the NDS. The Army is requesting $1.3 billion in FY24 as part of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative.
The Army plans to fully fund Pacific Pathways exercises, as well as make a “significant investment in building partner capacity and training efforts in that region,” he added.
The effect of the war in Ukraine on the FY 24 budget is limited, according to service officials.
“There’s no question replenishment and continuing to resupply our munitions for our support, from drawdowns for Ukraine, remains a significant area of emphasis, but that is funded through a different type of appropriation,” Camarillo said. “That is primarily through supplementals that were funded not only in FY22 but also going into FY23.”
However, Russia’s invasion has spurred the Army to accelerate its investments in the industrial base. While the service already had plans to invest $16 billion over 15 years to modernize its 23 depots, arsenals and ammunition plants, the FY24 budget request “doubles down” on this effort, according to Camarillo.
A total of $726 million in FY24 will go toward ammunition facilities and another $115 million will fund modernization and upgrades for depots that work on weapons and tracked combat vehicles, according to Bennett.
Bush said the budget reflects “significant additional funding across the [Future Year Defense Program] for the Army’s [Organic Industrial Base] plan.”
“We’re going to do it much faster than we thought we could,” he added.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.