Senate panel: Army's request for 17K more soldiers unrealistic

Senate panel: Army's request for 17K more soldiers unrealistic
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A Senate panel plans to authorize a fraction of the extra soldiers the Army has requested, with committee aides saying Thursday that the request for 17,000 troops was not a realistic goal for the year.

“It came in lower, but we believe that is adequate,” a Senate Armed Services Committee aide told reporters at a background briefing.

“It will help the Army with additional capacity and fix readiness shortfalls. We didn’t believe that 17,000 was realistic.”

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The committee unanimously passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday. The bill would authorize a total of $700 billion, split into $640 billion base defense funding and $60 billion for a war fund.

The committee’s version of the defense policy bill would add 6,000 soldiers, with 5,000 of those being active duty soldiers. Another 500 would go in the Army Reserve and 500 into the Army National Guard.

The Army’s request for 17,000 soldiers came in a list of unfunded priorities sent to Congress.

The decision to authorize fewer soldiers than requested puts the Senate version of the NDAA in contrast with the House version, which granted all 17,000 soldiers.

In deciding to go with 6,000 soldiers, the Senate Armed Services Committee looked at what the Army has done this year to reverse course on the cuts that had been planned, a second aide said.

The aide also said the committee does not believe the Army looked closely enough at its force structure when requesting 17,000 soldiers.

“Effectively that’s a division of troops,” the aide said. “We think that the Army probably hasn’t thought through force structure changes for next year that justify that many soldiers.”

The first aide stressed the bill’s lower number does not mean the committee believes the Army doesn’t need more soldiers.

“That’s not to suggest that the committee doesn’t believe the Army should grow beyond” 6,000, the aide said. “We just hope to do that in future years.”