The Army and members of the House Armed Services Committee seemed to be on the same page this week when the committee proposed adding 17,000 soldiers to the ranks in 2018.
The $3.1 billion increase was part of an Army wish list of unfunded priorities given to Congress this month. But the Senate Armed Services Committee said Thursday the number does not represent realistic growth for a single year.
Instead, the committee is proposing 6,000 more soldiers in the coming year — nearly two thirds less — as part of its annual National Defense Authorization Act, setting up a difference of opinion with House lawmakers that could lead to a showdown when the defense legislation is finalized later this year.
"I think the belief was 6,000 was a responsible rate for the Army to grow in one year and it would address shortfalls that they have," a Senate committee aide said. "Pushing far beyond that, at least [in] this committee's view, was not a place they want to go."
Adding more could force the service to reduce standards as it scrambles to recruit, the aide said.
The Senate proposal calls for 5,000 additional active-duty soldiers as well as 1,000 more split evenly between the National Guard and Army Reserve.
The House Armed Services passed its NDAA late Wednesday night and it calls for an additional 10,000 active-duty, 4,000 National Guard, and 3,000 reserve soldiers. That is in line with the Army's own unfunded priorities list, which the services provide each year to Congress as a supplement to the president's budget request.
Both proposals on Capitol Hill are still above what President Trump has proposed for 2018. His budget includes zero growth for the 476,000-soldier active-duty Army, Guard and reserve.