Army tackling ‘future’ recommendations, one Apache at a time

Lt. Gen. John Murray, deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Army, said the service is carefully weighing the recommendations made by the National Commission on the...

Top brass are working their way through the recommendations made by the Future of the Army Commission.

Army Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. John Murray said that the Army is taking a hard look at about a dozen of the 63 recommendations on how the Army should organize and support itself during a time of shrinking resources.

During the March 10 McAleese & Associates 2017 Defense Programs conference in Washington, Murray said a three-member board comprised of an active component brigadier general, a National Guard brigadier general and an Army Reserve two-star general are reviewing the recommendations.

While Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley makes the final decisions, Murray said, all three components are involved in the discussion.

“So far it’s been a joint decision, so everybody understands and the Army continues to speak with one voice,” Murray said. “I think you’ll start to see us talk more about what decisions are made, what decisions are not made.”

Congress tasked the commission with making recommendations. The commission released its recommendations in a report released Jan. 28, which Murray pointed out was after the Army submitted its fiscal 2017 budget.

Among the recommendations was to keep the Army funded at 2016 levels. Due to the budget deal, those funding levels are slightly less than recommended and, if sequestration returns in 2018, the levels could drop even further.

Murray said lawmakers will determine the fate of the most expensive and important recommendations.

“We’ve got to talk to Congress, primarily because we need resources to put the hardest ones, the ones everybody’s focused on, into place,” Murray said. “The other 52 are study this, analyze this, support this, report on this, which are fairly easy in terms of resources. It’s the most expensive ones we’ll need help topline wise, to get after it. That’s why the chief kind of went back to Congress and said it’s really your decisions … and we need the resources to do the toughest ones.”

One of the most expensive recommendations involves adding a 10th Armored Brigade Combat Team in Europe. Another addresses in part the Army’s Aviation Restructuring Initiative and the final destination of the Army’s Apache helicopters.

“The commission’s number one recommendation was heal the rift between the components,” Murray said. “The chief would tell you he’s embarrassed that we needed a commission to heal the rift between the components. Part of that recommendation was the aviation piece. … So the reason they recommended keeping 48 Apaches in the National Guard was primarily for operational depth and to reduce stress … on the active component Apaches,” Murray said. “And part of it, in my personal opinion, was also to help end the fight and the feud over Apaches in the National Guard.”

Murray said the tough decisions come down to the price tag, and whether or not the Army can afford it.

“We’re in the process of if we go this direction, this is what it’s going to cost and this is how we could potentially resource that decision,” Murray said.

The commission’s report also stated the Army can live up to the national security demands of the nation even if the number of active duty soldiers is drawn down to 450,000 soldiers, as the service plans to do by 2018.

Congress has been pushing back on the draw-down, but when Murray was asked whether he could use the additional manpower, he said that would only be a benefit if his top line was increased.

“You don’t increase the top line, you’re only compounding the problems I talked about up front,” Murray said. “So modernization is going to pay that bill, because it’s not going to be readiness. So modernization would pay that bill and how much?”

Murray said the Army’s planning figure is $1 billion for every 10,000 soldiers.

While the Army and Defense Department continue to review the commission’s recommendations, some analysts have taken a critical view of the report and said it does not go far enough to give the Army a clear path to success.

The commission “had the opportunity of a generation to define not only why you have an Army, but what you want it to do and therefore what it has to look like and … they didn’t do it,” said Dan Goure, vice president at the Lexington Institute. “They missed a huge opportunity.”

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