US takes aim at China and Russia in proposed defence budget

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The Pentagon has unveiled details of the $US750 billion ($1 trillion) national defence budget that the Trump administration has asked Congress to pass, calling it an example of how the military is shifting its emphasis from counter-insurgency to competition with China and Russia.

The issue is likely to feature prominently in acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s testimony before Congress, scheduled for Thursday. He has said previously the 2020 budget would be a “masterpiece” demonstrating how the Pentagon is adapting to the great-power strategy.

But President Donald Trump’s plan to take money from the Pentagon budget for the border wall and attempt to raise the defence budget without agreeing to hikes in non-military spending has angered Democrats, setting the stage for negotiations that are more hostile than usual and overshadowing the strategic realignment.

The budget request showed some trade-offs the Pentagon would be expected to make to recalibrate the military bureaucracy toward China and Russia after more than a decade and a half spent focusing on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Navy plans to retire one of its aircraft carriers early and invest in drone ships; the Army is looking to scale back investments in legacy helicopters and fighting vehicles and instead buy high-end versions; and the Air Force is dramatically increasing its investments in space.

Whether the changes go far enough to reshape the military for a new mission is a matter of debate that will play out in public over the coming months as the Pentagon seeks to reach an agreement with Congress over what proposals will proceed and earn funding.

The request comprises $US718 billion for the Defence Department and $US32 billion for defence-related activities at other agencies, primarily nuclear weapons programs at the Energy Department. The budget represents a nearly 5 per cent increase over the current fiscal year but, when adjusted for inflation, falls below overall defence-spending highs during the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon said the budget would help ensure peace with Russia and China by building a US military capable of defeating them in a conflict.

“The stakes are clear,” acting Deputy Defence Secretary David Norquist said. “If we want peace, adversaries need to know there is no path to victory by fighting us.”

Norquist said the budget represented the largest research, development, test and evaluation request submitted to Congress in 70 years, a testament to the Pentagon’s focus on developing new technologies. He highlighted significant new investments in cyber warfare, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, lasers and space, including the creation of a Space Force.

There are positive indications that this budget will begin the shift toward strategic competition with China and Russia, said Susanna Blume, a Pentagon official during the Obama administration and deputy director of the defence program at the Centre for a New American Security.

For example, Blume said, the decision to increase the number of Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines from two to three, invest in unmanned Navy vessels and finalise a decision on how to organise the Space Force represent steps toward implementing the strategy.

The budget request devotes $US31 billion to the modernisation of the nation’s nuclear triad, aimed primarily at Russia. That includes $US3 billion to move into the manufacture and design of the new B-21 bomber, $US2.2 billion for the new Columbia-class nuclear submarine, $US700 million for a new long-range stand-off missile and $US600 million to overhaul the intercontinental ballistic missile force.

Some choices appeared out of step with the strategy. The Pentagon requested less money for the European Deterrence Initiative, the main program that bolsters allies in Europe to deter possible incursions from Russia. The Defence Department requested $5.9 billion, $600 million less than the amount Congress appropriated this year.

said the Pentagon spent robustly on the program last year and had already completed one-off infrastructure and repositioning investments, so therefore did not need to spend more on the effort this year. She said the Pentagon was also looking at “increased burden-sharing” for the initiative, meaning more expenditures by European allies.

The Pentagon also faced questions over a decision to request a mix of older and newer fighter jets, after Trump criticised the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The budget calls for 78 F-35s from Lockheed Martin at a cost of $US11.2 billion. But it also requested eight new variants of the older F-15 fighter jet made by Boeing, at a cost of $US1.1 billion, the first acquisition of an F-15 since 2001.

“Air Force officials said they made the decision in part to meet their current ambitious goals for readiness and capacity,” Sharp said. “But skeptics will see the move as prioritising the present over the future.”

Despite rolling out an ambitious administration policy that sought a large-scale recalibration of missile defences, the administration requested $US9.43 billion for the Missile Defence Agency, a decrease of $US1.06 billion from the enacted 2019 budget.

The MDA requested money for defences against hypersonic threats and for initiatives to demonstrate the capability of sensors to track ballistic missile targets, with the goal of ultimately using the technology in space to track missiles. Both programs are aimed at countering emerging capabilities from Russia and China.

The request fires the starting gun in negotiations with Capitol Hill over what form and size the ultimate defence budget will take when appropriated.

More than anything else, the budget request is a reflection of the administration’s priorities rather than an indication of the actual amount of money that will be spent on individual programs. Because Congress carries the power of the purse in Washington, lawmakers decide how much money to appropriate for the stated priorities.

Top Pentagon officials initially suggested that the defence budget might be cut as a result of the Trump administration’s efforts to control spending in response to a rising deficit, but the rollout made it clear that the White House wants to raise itt but cut non-military discretionary spending.

The administration asked for a 139 per cent increase in the Pentagon war-fighting account, which funds active conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, because that account does not fall under congressionally mandated budget caps that extend for two more years.

Pentagon officials said on Monday that only $US67 billion of the $US165 billion they requested in that account is actually for funding those conflicts, an acknowledgment that the size of the request – the biggest since 2008 – is simply a way to increase the defence budget while complying with the caps. The officials also recognised that the White House dictated the strategy of inflating the war-fighting budget, known as Overseas Contingency Operations, to achieve the desired defence spending levels overall.

Democrats have rejected the approach outright.

“I think there are other important priorities in this country, and if we spend all the money on defence, we aren’t going to be able to meet those priorities,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, a Democrat, said. “Witness the budget the President just sent.”

Much of the attention during the rollout Tuesday fell on Trump’s plan to take billions of dollars from the military budget for construction of a border wall without approval from Congress, using a combination of emergency and counter-drug authorities.

The Pentagon’s request included $US3.6 billion to “backfill” money Trump plans to take for the wall from the Pentagon’s military construction budget this year, as well as an additional $US3.6 billion for possible border infrastructure funding during the coming fiscal year.

McCusker said at a briefing that she could not say what programs the money would be going to backfill, because the department had not yet released a list of military construction programs that might lose funding for construction of the wall.

Travis Sharp, research fellow at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the effort to take money from the Pentagon budget for the wall could jeopardise the military’s plans as the administration and Congress head into what could be an acrimonious budget season.

“DOD’s carefully laid plans have been undercut by the White House’s waffling about the top line last fall, stuffing the budget with money for the border wall and routing funds through the war account in an accounting gimmick,” Sharp said. “The Pentagon is not to blame for those things, but it may still suffer the consequences.”

The Washington Post


$718.3 Billion US Defense Budget Request Focuses on Threats

WASHINGTON —At $718.3 billion, the fiscal year 2020 defense budget request announced at the Pentagon today by defense officials is an increase from last year’s $685 billion approved budget.

This year’s request focuses on addressing peer threats emanating from Russia and China, which are modernizing their forces at an unprecedented rate, according to David L. Norquist, who is performing the duties of deputy defense secretary.

The budget reflects the priorities of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, he continued. Priorities are in the following four areas: investment in the emerging space and cyberspace domains; modernizing capabilities in the air, land and maritime domains; acceleration in technology such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics, autonomy and directed energy; and, sustains the force and builds on readiness gains.

Norquist, Elaine McCusker, DOD’s deputy comptroller, and Army Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, director, Force Structure, Resources and Assessment, Joint Staff, conducted a Pentagon news conference today, concerning the 2020 Defense Budget.

Military Pay Raise

McCusker said the budget takes care of service members. “Our force is our most valuable asset.”

It calls for a 3.1 percent military pay increase — the largest in a decade, Norquist noted. The pay increase is for the forecast 2,140,300 members of the active, guard and reserve total force, which is also an end-strength increase of about 8,000 from this fiscal year.

Besides the pay raise, McCusker said the budget reflects efforts to modernize the health care system and care for families with such things as child care and schools.

She noted that DOD is on track to save about $6 billion this fiscal year due to reform efforts in information technology, providing more efficient health care services, smarter customer purchases of goods and services and divestment of programs no longer consistent with the NDS.

Budget Breakdowns

The $718.3 billion budget includes $66.7 billion for overseas contingency operations  and $9.2 billion for emergency operations, which includes hurricane recovery and security for the Southwest border.

The breakdown of the $718.3 billion by appropriation type is: $292.7 billion for operations and maintenance, or 41 percent of the budget; $155.8 billion for military personnel (22 percent); $143.1 billion for procurement (20 percent); $104.3 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation (15 percent); and $22.5 billion for military construction, family housing and other (3 percent).

The breakdown of the $718.3 billion by military department is: $205.6 billion for the Navy, or 29 percent of the budget; $204.8 billion for the Air Force (29 percent); $191.4 billion for the Army (27 percent); and $116.6 billion for defensewide activities (16 percent).

The total national defense budget request is $750 billion. Besides the $718.3 billion for DOD, the remainder goes to the Energy Department and other agencies.

Past approved defense budgets were $606 billion for FY 2017, $670.6 billion for FY 2018 and $685 billion for this fiscal year.

Space Domain

This year’s budget request sets aside $14.1 billion for the space domain, including $72.4 million to resource the new Space Force headquarters, $1.1 billion to mitigate risk to satellite communications jamming, $1.8 billion to increase GPS follow-on satellites and operational control systems, $1.6 billion to improve space-based missile warning capabilities and $1.7 billion for space launch capabilities.

Cyber Domain

If the request is approved, cyber would receive $9.6 billion, of which $3.7 billion would be for offensive and defensive cyberspace operations; $5.4 billion for cybersecurity to reduce risk to DOD networks, systems and information; and $61.9 million to modernize DOD’s multicloud environment.

Air Domain

The request allocates $57.7 billion for the air domain. Notable purchases include $13.9 billion for 110 fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft —  including 78 F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft, $2.3 billion for 12 KC-46 tankers, $651 million for 389 advanced medium range air-to-air missiles, and $582 million for 430 extended range joint air-to-surface missiles.

Maritime Domain

The request sets aside $34.7 billion for maritime operations, including funding for two new Gerald R. Ford-class nuclear aircraft carriers. Other line items include $447 million for two large unmanned surface vehicles, $209 million for 48 long range anti-ship missiles, $707 million for 90 maritime strike tactical Tomahawk missiles, $10.2 billion for three Virginia-class submarines, $5.8 billion for three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and $1.3 billion for one multimission guided missile frigate.

Land Domain

The request for funds directed at the land domain totals $14.6 billion, to include $1.6 billion for 4,090 joint light tactical vehicles and $395 million for 56 amphibious combat vehicles. Investments will also go to the purchase of multirole anti-armor weapon systems, binocular night vision devices, squad common optics and squad thermal systems.

Multidomain

The request allocates $13.6 billion to missile-defeat and defense systems, to include $1.7 billion for ground-based missile defenses, $753.8 million for 37 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems, $1.7 billion for 3 missiles and 36 installations of Aegis ballistic missile defense systems, $174 million for space-based missile warning and defense demonstrations and ground control enhancements to address hypersonic threats, $331 million to develop boost-phase and advanced technology missile defense systems — to include directed energy and air-launched kinetic interceptors, and $844 million for systems that can destroy adversary ground-based missiles before they launch.

Nuclear Enterprise

The request for funds directed at modernization of the nuclear force totals $14 billion and includes $712 million for long-range standoff weaponry, $3 billion for the B-21 Bomber, $570 million for ground-based strategic deterrent, $2.2 billion for the Columbia-class submarine, and $2.5 billion for enhanced nuclear command, control and communications capabilities.

Special Operations Forces

The $3.4 billion earmarked for special operations forces in the fiscal year 2020 request includes $27.2 million for directed energy weapons, $342.8 million for AC-130J Ghostrider/MC-130J Commando II aircraft, $45.3 million for CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and $105.7 million for additional surface and subsurface maritime craft systems.

The Pentagon

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