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The Trump Military Buildup Has Begun With DoD’s Proposed Budget
For years, the U.S. military has had to do more with less, but the Defense Department’s proposed budget for fiscal 2019 would add nearly 26,000 service members across the active-duty force, National Guard and reserves.
The Army would see the biggest jump, growing by 11,500 active-duty soldiers, 500 National Guardsmen and 500 reservists, budget documents show. The Navy would grow by 7,500 active-duty sailors and 100 reservists; the Air Force would add 4,000 active-duty airmen, 500 reservists and 200 National Guardsmen; and the Marine Corps would increase by 1,100 active-duty Marines, officials said.
The plus-up reflects the National Security Strategy’s requirements that the Defense Department reverse the post-Iraq and Afghanistan drawdowns that led to the U.S. military in 2016 being the smallest it had been before World War II, said Defense Department Comptroller David Norquist.
By fiscal 2023, the U.S. military expects to add a total of 56,600 service members, Norquist said Monday at a Pentagon briefing. The additional troops will allow the Defense Department to add units such as the Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades as well as recruit pilots, maintainers, and cyber security experts, he said.
Under current plans, the Marine Corps would only grow by 1,400 active-duty Marines over the next five years, despite the Corps’ internal force structure review, which recommended that the service increase its active-duty end strength from 185,000 to at least 194,000 Marines.
“Each of the services took a look at what it takes to improve their readiness and their capability,” Norquist said. “In some cases, it’s additional end strength and in some cases it’s additional training. In other cases, it’s moving more things to maintenance for readiness. You’ll see some variation between them. It’s not a matter of emphasizing one service over the other. It’s a recognition on their part of what they need to be effective.”
The extra active-duty Marines would be assigned to information and electronic warfare missions, and a small contingent would be added to U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, said Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Christopher Harrison.
The proposed budget would allow the Army to grow to 487,500 active-duty soldiers, budget documents show. The service is authorized to increase its active-duty end strength from 476,000 to 483,500 in fiscal 2018, but Congress has yet to pass appropriations legislation that would fund an increase for this fiscal year.
Between fiscal 2012 and 2016, the Army’s budget shrank, forcing senior leaders to “manage more risk” in terms of being ready to fight a conventional war, Maj. Gen. Paul Chamberlain, the Army’s budget director, said on Monday.
If Congress funds the end strength increase, the extra soldiers will “reconstitute lost capability that resulted from a smaller force designed to face a different threat,” Chamberlain said.
“These forces will be used to increase the Army’s lethality and capacity by resourcing specific units such as fires, air defense, logistics and others,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Navy plans to “eliminate gaps at sea” by increasing its active-duty end strength by 7,500 billets through a combination of recruiting and retention, said Rear Adm. Brian E. Luther, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget. That would increase the Navy’s active force to 335,400 sailors, he said.
In order to compete with the private sector, the Navy Department’s proposed budget would “substantially increase both enlistment and retention bonuses,” said Luther, who did not have details on individual bonuses and incentives.
For the Air Force, the extra 4,700 airmen would be used for intelligence, drone operations, cyber missions and other squadron needs, officials told Task & Purpose.
While the proposed budget promises to make the U.S. military bigger, there is no guarantee that Congress will approve the required funding on time. The Defense Department is currently being funded by a temporary spending measure that is set to expire in March — six months into the current fiscal year.
Congress recently reached an agreement for overall spending levels in fiscals 2018 and 2019, but appropriators still need to pass legislation for both fiscal years.
The two-year agreement does not guarantee that the proposed defense budgets will pass as submitted. Lawmakers are responsible for reviewing and approving each line item in both requests — and making changes where they deem necessary.
For the past decade, the U.S. military has been grappling with budget instability as Congress has started each fiscal year with temporary spending measures instead of appropriations legislation. The fact that lawmakers have agreed to a dollar figure for the fiscal 2019 defense appropriations makes it less likely that Congress will once again pass a temporary spending measure in October — but since this is an election year, it is entirely possible that Congress will wait until after the midterm elections to vote on the defense budget.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said on Monday that she is taking a close look at whether the proposed budget meets the U.S. military’s current and future needs.
“With any budget, it’s critical that we determine how to effectively and efficiently use our dollars to strengthen and modernize the force so we’re prepared to not only counter aggression by adversaries, such as North Korea or Iran, but also near peer competitors, such as Russia and China,” Ernst said in a statement. “I look forward to reviewing the president’s proposal further and continuing discussions with my colleagues on how we can protect our interests at home and abroad, all while being better stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
While the proposed troop increases are a step in the right direction, the U.S. military remains too small to fight two wars at the same time, said retired Marine Lt. Col. Dakota Wood of the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington.
At the height of the Iraq war, the Army wanted to grow to 48 brigade combat teams, but it stopped growing when it reached 45 brigade combat teams, said Wood, primary author of a study that recommended drastically increasing the size of the U.S. military, which President Trump has endorsed.
“So that right there was a signal that they needed more capacity in the Army, just to sustain those operations against an irregular opponent — no opposing air, no artillery, no armor, no meaningful logistical capabilities, as you would expect in a large-scale conventional fight,” Wood told Task & Purpose.
Since 2012, the Army has shrunk to 31 brigade combat teams and the Marine has contracted from 27 to 23 active-duty battalions, he said. The extra 1,100 Marines called for in the fiscal 2019 budget would allow the Corps to add cyber operators and aircraft maintainers, but it wouldn’t increase the number of operational units.
Wood has advocated for the U.S. military to be large enough to fight a major conflict while having the capacity to respond to another emergency.
“It doesn’t mean that we plan to be in two wars simultaneously, but if you have enough to handle one major contingency and not much left over, you don’t have much deterrent value,” Wood said.
An Austrian soldier was apparently killed by two military working dogs that he was charged with feeding, the Austrian Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday.
She's photographed every major war of the last 20 years. Marine Corps boot camp was something else entirely
Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario has seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya, and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.
Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.
The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.
Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
Federal court judge Reggie Walton in Washington D.C. has ruled Hoda Muthana, a young woman who left her family in Hoover, Alabama, to join ISIS, is not a U.S. citizen, her attorneys told AL.com Thursday.
The ruling means the government does not recognize her a citizen of the United States, even though she was born in the U.S.
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Marine Corps could train as many as eight co-ed companies at boot camp each year, and the general overseeing the effort is hitting back against those complaining that the move is lowering training standards.
"Get over it," Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the head of Training and Education Command told Military.com on Thursday. "We're still making Marines like we used to. That has not changed."
Mullen, a career infantry officer who has led troops in combat — including in Fallujah, Iraq — said Marines have likely been complaining about falling standards since 1775.
"I'm assuming that the second Marine walking into Tun Tavern was like 'You know ... our standards have gone down. They're just not the same as it they used to be,'" Mullen said, referring to the service's famous birthplace. "That has always been going on in the history of the Marine Corps."