On April 9, 2021, the Biden White House released to Congress and the public a summary of its proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Discretionary Budget Request. At that time, Liberty Nation provided readers an analysis of the summary document with a comparison of the discretionary funding allocations. Defense was near the bottom with Homeland Security receiving less of a percentage budget increase compared with FY2021
Getting out ahead of the official defense budget announcement, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a Pentagon release written by Todd Lopez, DoD News, confirm that the FY2022 defense budget ask of $715 billion is sufficient. Speaking to the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on defense about the defense budget total dollar amount known since April, Austin said:
“This budget provides us the ability to create the right mix of capabilities to defend this nation and to deter any aggressors. It adequately allows us to begin to prepare for the next fight … it, in fact, does provide us the ability to go after the capabilities that we need.”
Austin’s testimony was an overture to the defense budget roll-out briefing that took place at 1:45 PM on May 28, in the Pentagon press briefing room. The entire budget briefing was explained against the backdrop of President Biden’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance.
The FY2022 total defense funding request is $11.3 billion more than enacted in FY2021, representing a 1.6% increase overall and is consistent with the White House release of the discretionary budget in April.
As the budget breaks out by appropriation in the accompanying graphic shows, procurement decreased $8.0 billion from the FY2021 enacted budget while the other funding accounts saw increases. Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E) saw the largest appropriation request ever with a plus-up of $5.5 billion.
Key among the RDT&E investments is $2.3 billion for the availability and reliability of microelectronics. The Operations and Maintenance account received an increase of $7.0 billion, recognizing that readiness requires sustaining the force’s equipment, ships, and aircraft.
The most significant change in the FY2022 budget request from previous years dating back to the early 2000s is that all defense spending is in the base budget. In prior years, the funding request was broken into the base budget and the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) or Global War on Terror (GWOT) supplemental request. The OCO and GWOT budgets were to replace or repair equipment damaged or lost in the Middle East conflicts and other areas where U.S. troops were deployed in harm’s way. Submitting one base budget with all of the spending requirements is much easier to defend.
The $715 billion budget request provides funding for each Military Department to train, organize, and equip the forces and execute the Defense-Wide programs. Defense-Wide programs are like the Missile Defense Agency, which meet the needs across the Military Departments and do not fit appropriately in one Service portfolio.
As the accompanying graphic portrays, the Air Force and Navy received increases over the FY2021 enacted appropriations. The Navy funding includes the Navy’s shipbuilding program that includes money for the new Constellation Class guided-missile frigates and two Virginia-class submarines. The substantial increase of $8.8 billion for the Air Force is to fund the U.S. Air Force Space Command requirements and fund nuclear modernization programs like the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent replacement for the aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM)and the B-21 new strategic bomber.
The Army funding in the president’s budget was reduced, reflecting the withdrawal of Army forces from Afghanistan and the reduced requirement to support ground troops there. Additionally, the Defense Department emphasized the Navy and Air Force capability in the Indo-Pacific to counter China. To that end, the defense budget allocates $5.1 billion for the “Pacific Deterrence Initiative,” (PDI) recognizing that China has demonstrated that it is much more capable and hostile than just a “great power competitor.” The PDI will “maintain a conventional military advantage necessary to deter aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Big Ticket Items
Another big-ticket category in the budget request is innovation and modernization, including $20.4 billion to defeat enemy ICBMs and other missile threats. The funding will develop new anti-missile systems that will have coverage throughout the altitude ranges at which an in-coming enemy missile can be engaged and destroyed.
With a level budget, barely keeping pace with inflation, the Defense Department had to make some trade-offs. Implicit in the budget topline is savings the Department hopes to get by divesting legacy military equipment that is expensive to maintain and is not considered complementary to capability needed in future weapons systems. The Department proposes to recover nearly $3 billion by retiring older platforms like four of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships, 42 of the Air Forces A-10 Thunderbolt close air support fighters, 14 KC-10, and 18 KC-135 aerial tankers and others.
Retiring legacy systems has been historically aspirational. However, achieving divestment in this budget cycle is crucial since the funding needed for investment in modernization depends on the money from retiring older aircraft and ships. Additionally, each of the weapon systems, ships, or aircraft the Services want to retire has a congressional constituency that has been formidable in the past.
The good news is that the budget recognizes the threat China poses to the U.S. and its allies. On the other hand, the not-so-good news is that the flat defense budget does portend that subsequent years will see any substantial increases. As the global security environment continues to be threatening, flat defense budgets would be a dangerous trend.
For those interested in learning more detailed information about the Defense Department budget and the thinking that goes into it, you can visit the comptroller site.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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