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‘Rebuild’ or Hype?

When they do, they will force even harder choices in a budget that will almost surely be smaller than Trump wants. Since military pay and benfits are not likely to be reduced, appropriators will have to once again offload onto war accounts programs unrelated to war and, secondly, tap accounts slated for operations and maintenance of equipment and facilities — the crux of readiness. “At some point, it’s a zero-sum game,” says Katherine Blakeley, a defense budget analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

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Military Sends Congress $32B Wish List Heavy With Procurement Items

Kate Blakeley, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the services have had modest success in winning additional funds for UPL items. "It's a mixed bag, with a lot of new asks," she said. "Overall, the services asked for just over $20 billion in procurement in the FY-17 [UPLs], and got about $5.5 billion from Congress in the FY-17 additional appropriations." For instance, she said the Navy UPL in FY-17 sought $3.4 billion for shipbuilding, but "got basically nothing." The service did not include shipbuilding requests in its FY-18 UPL. Blakeley said she was also struck by the fact the UPLs were light on readiness requests, which military leaders have uniformly said is their top budgetary priority. "Would the services agree that the [president's FY-18 budget] request just about meets their overall readiness, training and maintenance needs?" she said. "The only readiness-related item in the Marine Corps and the Navy is additional money for facilities sustainment. The Air Force is just requesting modest sums for more reserve training days. The Army is the only service asking for serious money -- $590 million for [brigade combat team] readiness."

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Army Top Brass Prepare to Cut Troop Numbers by Over 20,000 After Tories Drop Pledge to Keep Fighting Force at Target of 82,000

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in Washington, said Defence chiefs will struggle to sustain much more than a brigade – around 6,500 troops – in a future war because of a significant slashing in the number of troops, a Washington-based think-tank said in May.  British forces peaked at 46,000 during the invasion phase and then fell away year on year to 4,100 in May 2009 when the UK formally withdrew from Iraq. There are currently just 78,407 regular soldiers in the Army, down from 102,000 in 2010.  The US report also criticised the strength of the Royal Navy, saying it is still unclear whether there will be enough jets to fly off Britain's new aircraft carriers.

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Evolving Capabilities

As the service focuses more on the Asia-Pacific, an area dominated by rivers and shallow areas — compared with the Persian Gulf and other areas in which the Navy has operated in the last few decades — there is a very clear push to make brown and green water assets a bigger part of the fleet, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “I think you’re going to see a lot of e ort to bring green and brown water forces into being able to operate more in the green and the blue water,” Clark said. “You can put a small number of weapons on each platform, and have each platform be a sensor, and kind of knit them together.”

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Naval Buildup Requires Sustained Political Support

Bryan Clark, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the Navy could potentially reach 355 ships at less cost than the CBO projected. The CBO assumed that all of the additional ships in the larger Navy would come from new construction. But the service could help increase force levels by not retiring ships as quickly as current plans call for, Clark said. “You could get to a larger fleet sooner and … with a little less cost,” he said. But it would still require about a 20 percent increase in the shipbuilding budget, he added. From a fiscal and political perspective, ramping up to 355 ships is “feasible,” Clark said. “The key will be if there’s continued perception that you need a larger Navy to deal with security challenges that the country is facing.”

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US Army, Japan Ground Self Defense Force Will Conduct SINKEX at RIMPAC 2018

A Congressionally-commissioned study of a future fleet and operational concepts for the Navy by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments released this year described how similar anti-ship capabilities could be used not just to defend against, but to contain an adversary. In the study’s example, expeditionary ground units (this case used U.S. Marines, but could just as plausibly be ASCM-equipped U.S. Army units) equipped with coastal defense ASCMs and air defenses positioned on Japan’s Southwest islands (which include the Ryukyus and Senkakus) could “contain an adversary’s power projection capabilities.” The relatively close proximity of the Southwestern islands to each other means that batteries of land-based ASCMs, especially in concert with naval and aviation support, could effectively keep China’s North Sea and East Sea fleets bottled up inside the first island chain, unable to break out into the wider Western Pacific.