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Budget provides funds to balance Army

WASHINGTON — For years the Army’s chief of staff has said his service was “out of balance,” but he believes next year’s budget request will keep it on the road to recovery after 10 years of war.

During testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told lawmakers the fiscal 2012 Army budget submission marks a “transition point” between restoring balance to the force and sustaining that balance.

“This budget enables us to sustain the balance that we have restored into this great Army,” Casey said, adding “sustaining that balance is critical because this war is not over.”

Casey was joined by Army Secretary John M. McHugh on Capitol Hill to detail and explain the Army’s portion of President Barack Obama’s proposed defense budget to Congress. The Army base budget request for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 is $144.9 billion, an increase of just $1.5 billion over the fiscal 2011 request.

The Army also requested an additional $71.1 billion for the overseas contingency operations budget, which funds operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Army’s budget proposal includes a 1.5 percent pay raise for soldiers, a 3.1 percent increase in housing allowance, and a 3.4 percent increase in subsistence allowance.

“After a decade of very hard work, we have a force that is the right size, that is organized in versatile, modular formations on a predictable rotational cycle, and that has sufficient time at home to begin training for the full range of missions and to recover from a decade of war,” Casey told lawmakers.

The Army’s recent growth and the drawdown in Iraq, Casey said, have enabled the service to improve Soldiers’ dwell time — the time they spend at home, training and with their families — between deployments.

“This is a critical component of sustaining an all-volunteer force in a protracted conflict,” he said. “For the better part of five years we were returning Soldiers to combat after only one year at home. We knew that was not sustainable and have been working to bring dwell to two years at home as quickly as possible.”

Now, the general said, the Army has reached that goal.

“Given what we know about the projected demands, our active units who deploy after the first of October will deploy with an expectation of having two years at home when they return,” he said, adding that Guard and reserve units should expect to have four years at home when they return.

“We’ve worked very hard to get to this point, and it’s a significant accomplishment,” Casey said, noting the Army will continue to work to eventually provide a three-year dwell time to active units.

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