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Commission on the army’s future did its job

David Johnson criticizes the National Commission on the Future of the Army (NCFA) for recommending a total Army of 980,000 troops, saying it is inadequate because it does not taking into account increased global threats (Planning for the ‘Army of the future, The Hill, February 17, 2016).  According to Johnson, “Unfortunately, it is not 2014, and the NCFA’s recommendations about the Army the United States needs…are woefully short of what is needed in 2016 and beyond.”

First and foremost, the Commission was not asked to recommend an “Army the United States needs.”  Instead, its mandate was to size the force in light of two important considerations – acceptable risk and anticipated resources.  The Commission assumed resourcing at the president’s FY16 budget request (PB16) and made its recommendations within that constraint.  And keep in mind that the PB16 level could actually prove too optimistic given it is higher than what is in the president’s FY17 budget.  In testimony before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees last week, commissioners emphasized that 980,000 was a floor, not a ceiling and that if not constrained by budget and risk, their force-size recommendation would have been much different. 

Second, even as the report clearly states that 980,000 is the “minimally sufficient” force, it also makes it just as clear that such a force may prove inadequate due to increasing global threats.  As NCFA Chairman Gen. (Ret.) Carter Ham said to the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, the question for the country is:  “Does America want a minimally sufficient Army?”

Third, the Commission is well aware that the 2012 strategic guidance and the subsequent Quadrennial Defense Review of 2014 are out of date and do not accurately reflect current global threats, and said so emphatically in the report.  In fact, one of the Commission’s most important recommendations is that the president revise the strategic guidance based on changes in the security environment (Recommendation 13). 

The Commission was not unbounded, and did exactly what was asked by Congress and the president. 

Eule is director of Communications and Government Relations for the National Commission on the Future of the Army.

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