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The Army and Defense Resource Allocation: The Bronze Medal Ain't Good Enough in a Three-Man Race

Authored by Lieutenant Colonel Tim Flanagan. | October 2007

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ABSTRACT

This paper examines the current state of the Army's funding in relation to its needs as well as in relation to its historical proportion of the Department of Defense (DoD) budget. DoD has traditionally allocated the Army approximately a quarter of the overall DoD budget, while the Navy and Air Force have received greater than 30 percent. These figures are roughly the same whether looking at the Reagan, Clinton, or either of the Bush Presidencies. Despite the heavy lifting done by the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 Budget request had the Army getting about 25 percent while the Navy and Air Force receive slightly less than 30 percent each. The FY2008 request submitted to Congress in February 2007 moved that mark to 27 percent for the Army, 28 percent for the Air Force, 29 percent for the Navy/Marine Corps, and 16 percent for other DoD programs. These overall percentages do not vary by more than 2 percent of the historical average over the last 30 years.

Advocates for increased Defense spending have pointed out that Defense spending, as a proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP), is at a historical low of 3-4 percent over the last 10 years, while opponents argue that the end of the Cold War and the limited war we are fighting now justify less of an investment in Defense. This year the Army's leadership is attempting to make a stronger argument for additional dollars, while simultaneously refusing to entertain the question of diverting money from Air Force and Navy funding streams.

How did the Army get to the point where it is the perennial bronze medal winner in a three-man funding race? Are the Army's relations with Congress part of the problem in obtaining sufficient funding? How does DoD determine who gets what and how do they determine how much is enough? After examining the possible Army funding options, this paper concludes with recommendations of actions that the Army leadership should take to procure additional funding for the Army.

INTRODUCTION

Are we a Nation at War or for that matter a Department of Defense (DoD) at War? Or is the truth that we are really an Army and Marine Corps at War? The Army is currently involved in the greatest sustained combat since Vietnam and yet as a percentage of DoD spending receives the smallest share of the three major services. This paper examines the current state of the Army's funding in relation to its needs as well as in relation to its historical proportion of DoD's budget. DoD has traditionally allocated the Army approximately a quarter of the overall DoD budget, while the Navy and Air Force have received greater than 30 percent. These figures are roughly the same whether looking at the Reagan, Clinton, or either of the Bush presidencies. Despite the heavy lifting done by the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Fiscal Year (FY)2007 budget request had the Army getting about 25 percent while the Navy and Air Force receive slightly less than 30 percent. The FY08 request submitted to Congress in February 2007 moved that mark to 27 percent for the Army, 28 percent for the Air Force, 29 percent for the Navy/Marine Corps, and 16 percent for DoD programs. When looking at the DoD investment budget for the amount spent on weapons purchases, the Air Force receives 36 percent of the budget; the Navy, 33 percent; and the Army is left with just 16 percent, after various defense agencies take 15 percent. These overall percentages do not vary by more than 2 percent of the historical average over the last 30 years. (Supplemental budget submissions were not included in these calculations.)

Our nation last engaged in a serious naval battle over 60 years ago during World War II. In the skies, our Air Force last faced a major threat during the final throes of the Vietnam War. We currently enjoy a 200 to 1 kill ratio in the skies and yet suffer a ground casualty rate of about six to one in close combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, after continuous investment in our sea and air assets, the Navy and Air Force stand alone on the world stage.3 How did the Army get to this point, and how can the Army legitimately make a coherent argument to receive more funds or a bigger piece of the Defense budget?

ENDNOTES

3. Robert H. Scales, "The Military Budget Pie," Washington Times, January 10, 2007, p. 17.