The U.S. Army is roughly $7-to-$9 billion short of the funds needed to begin modernizing the force, which has seen several of its capabilities outmatched by Russia in recent years, according to a new report by the Center for Security and International Studies.
A combination of cancelled acquisition programs, a lack of consensus within the Army about top modernization priorities, and the need to focus investments on the war against Islamic terrorism led to a force heavily reliant on equipment initially procured in the 1980s, according to the study.
Congressional caps on defense spending also crippled Army modernization funding and, if left in place, will likely compel the branch to continue prioritizing modernization behind the short- to mid-term urgencies of readiness and force size.
The report reflects concerns conveyed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who warned Congress in April 2016 the force had become "outranged and outgunned by many potential adversaries." Milley cautioned that sustained cuts to the defense budget over the past eight years resulted in the erosion of U.S. overmatch, particularly in the face of Russian advances.
Russia's complex missile defenses already threaten U.S. and NATO access to air space in parts of Europe—a concerning prospect given the basis of American defense strategy is reliant on the ability to project power overseas.
Moscow has made significant advances to its anti-access and area-denial weapons, or A2-AD in military shorthand. The system uses densely layered weapons systems to restrict American forces from operating in a specific area.
Russia is also a significant exporter of military capacities to U.S. adversaries, including Iran, Syria, and China, so even conflicts that don't directly involve Moscow are likely to encompass a combination of Russian equipment and tactics.
Andrew Hunter, director of the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at CSIS and one of the authors of the report, said the Army needs to stop living off modernization investments made four decades ago and begin funding efforts to update existing platforms and systems.
"This must be a priority," Hunter told the Washington Free Beacon. "The Army has some critical needs to modernize because of the evolving threat, driven largely by Russia. If it can clearly explain its needs and how the modernization priorities help address that threat, I think they can be pretty successful both within the Defense Department and Congress at getting additional modernization money."