By Debbie Gregory.
Rep. Mac Thornberry has introduced a defense bill that would increase, rather than decrease, the size of the U.S. Army.
Thornberry has floated a brash plan to get around spending limits on the military. His defense budget dramatically boosts spending by $16 billion, pumping that money into the Army and troop pay as well as training, equipment and facilities.
The money would not only stop the Army from drawing down 15,000 soldiers in the coming year, it would add another 5,000.
His bill also aims to add an additional 15,000 troops to the National Guard, bringing the count up to 350,000, and 10,000 to the Reserves, for a total Reserve strength of 205,000. The bill would increase the strength of the Marine Corps by 3,000 and the Air Force by 4,000.
The size of the Army has been a major concern among lawmakers, many of whom have stated that the active force is too small to deal with the growing number of threats facing the U.S.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the plan is “deeply troubling and flawed” and that Thornberry is gambling with money for troops on the battlefield during a time of war.
Thornberry’s revised budget earmarks just over $2 billion in additional funding for the troop increase, according to language in the bill. That’s about $2.5 billion short of what the Army would need, according to Army senior leaders who have said that it will cost about $1 billion for every 10,000 soldiers.
“The proposal is designed to restore strength to the force through readiness investments and agility through much needed reforms, while providing a more solid foundation for the next President to address actual national security needs,” according to the bill’s summary.
Thornberry said the military is already suffering due to a lack of spending and it is “fundamentally wrong to send servicemembers out on missions for which they are not fully prepared or fully supported.”