The U.S. Army’s fiscal 2020 budget, which will be made public in mid-March, will cut $31.5 billion from existing programs to ensure that the service’s top priorities of readiness and modernization remain on track, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said Tuesday.

Army senior leadership just wrapped up its version of “night court,” a time-consuming and tedious process in which top generals went through each program to find extra money for the service’s six modernization priorities and to fund efforts to increase the readiness levels of brigade combat teams, McCarthy told an audience at an Association of the United States Army breakfast.

“We ran through every program in the budget … it was kind of that Shark Tank variety. You went in there and explained your program to the leadership and, if it didn’t survive contact, it was out,” he said.

The process yielded “just over $31.5 billion” in cuts and reductions, as well as cost avoidance measures, McCarthy said.

“So if you walk down the balance sheet, it’s about $8 billion in cost avoidance and about $22 billion in just cuts or terminations, so that we could realign the funding against our priorities,” said McCarthy, using broad figures.

He added, “$8 billion is cost avoidance in the out years; that is a savings. Cost avoidance … flattens cost, so costs don’t increase.”

McCarthy would not give details about which programs have been cut, restructured or canceled.

The Army began this journey two years ago, he said, by aligning the fiscal 2018 and 2019 budgets against its six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a mobile network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.

“All six of the Army modernization priorities will have vast increases, and you will see a sustained push to the readiness portfolio because we made hard choices inside of our budget,” McCarthy said. “We have been very consistent about where we are trying to take the Army to have the Army we need by 2028. With that comes very difficult choices and, in this fiscal 2020 [budget], folks will see that.”

The budget is scheduled to be released March 12. Until then, McCarthy said the service will continue to communicate with companies that stand to lose revenue as a result of budget cuts.

“We think that we have been consistent and, when you are consistent about where you are trying to take the organization and you work with companies, they will adjust,” he said.

“But it’s when you blindside them on a budget draft day, that’s very different. Those [business] leaders can’t manage expectations, and they can’t adjust their investments, their product lines, to survive. But that is the very nature of a partnership — just a lot of communication.”

— Matthew Cox can be reached at

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