U.S. Military Forces in FY 2022: Army

This paper is part of U.S. Military Forces in FY 2022. The U.S. Army’s force structure remains steady even though its budget declined by $3.6 billion dollars. The Army does this by cutting modernization and readiness. In the long term, the Army’s force structure is at risk because of the strategic focus on China, perceived as primarily an air and naval theater.

 Key Takeaways

  • Many strategists, including those in the new administration, would cut Army end strength to fund Navy, Space, and Air Force capabilities for use against China. The Army argues to maintain its force structure and modernization because it provides many capabilities globally, including in the Indo-Pacific theater.

  • In FY 2022, the Army took a big risk: despite a declining budget, it held onto structure. This reflects a strategic decision to fight in the ongoing strategy development process, with the hope of maintaining its share of the budget.

  • Thus, the Army maintained its personnel strength in FY 2022, both regular and reserve components, at roughly the FY 2021 level. FY 2022 targets include: 485,000 in the regular Army, 336,000 in the National Guard, and 189,500 in the Army Reserve.

  • To maintain end strength within a declining total budget, the Army cut (1) modernization, hoping that Congress would add the cuts back (a risk that may pay off), and (2) readiness, despite having rebuilt readiness over the last few years.

  • The active-reserve mix has stabilized at 48 percent active, 52 percent National Guard/Army Reserve.

  • The long-term Army force structure depends on budgets. A flat budget, as projected by the Trump administration and implied by the Biden administration, would entail deep force structure cuts. Proposed congressional budget increases might avert those cuts.

  • Army modernization procures existing systems in FY 2022 but at slower rates. A few new systems are coming out of the research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) “primordial soup.” However, most major elements of Army modernization—referred to as the “31+4” programs—are still in the future. The Army acknowledges that it cannot afford them all but has not indicated which ones will go forward. Additionally, the new administration may have a different set of modernization priorities.

  • In an environment of constrained end strength, the Army will need to cut existing brigade combat teams (BCTs) if it wants to build new units. So far it has been unwilling to do this.

  • Constrained resources may also push the Army into battles with the Office of the Secretary of Defense over strategic direction, with the Air Force over long-range strike, and with the National Guard over distribution of budget cuts.

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