Pentagon chief previews $582.7B defense budget

The Pentagon's planned 2017 budget will shifts its focus to future wars against near-peer competitors Russia and China, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday. 

He said the focus will contemplate fights in traditional domains of air, sea and land, as well as areas such as cyber-war and space.

"This budget marks a major inflection point for the Department of Defense," Carter said at a speech at the Economic Club in Washington.  

"In this budget, we’re taking the long view. We have to, because even as we fight today’s fights, we must also be prepared for the fights that might come 10, 20 or 30 years down the road," he said.

Carter said the $582.7 billion budget will focus on maintaining an edge over competitors and called Russia and China "our most stressing competitors." 

"For a long time, [the Defense Department] tended to focus and plan and prepare for whatever big war people thought was coming over the horizon," he said. "While that kind of singular focus may have made sense when we were facing off against the Soviets or sending hundreds of thousands of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, it won’t work for the world we live in today."

"Now we have to think and do a lot of different things about a lot of different challenges — not just ISIL and other terrorist groups, but also competitors like Russia and China, and threats like North Korea and Iran," he said, using the administration's preferred acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

The Pentagon is still planning to boost its spending on the war against ISIS by 50 percent from last year, to $7.5 billion. Of that, $1.8 billion will go to buying more than 45,000 GPS-guided smart bombs and laser-guided rockets, Carter said. 

The Pentagon will also seek to delay the retirement of the A-10 attack jet, which has been widely used in the Middle East, until 2020.

The Pentagon will also more than quadruple its spending in Europe to reassure allies and deter Russian aggression, from $789 million to $3.4 billion. That is expected to fund more U.S. forces in Europe, more training and exercises, the prepositioning of military equipment there and improving existing infrastructure there. 

"While we do not desire conflict of any kind with any of these nations — and let me be clear, though they pose some similar defense challenges they are very different nations and situations — we also cannot blind ourselves to the actions they appear to choose to pursue," Carter said.  

Carter said the budget makes important investments in new technologies such as in precision-guided munitions, stealth, cyber and space. 

He said the 2017 budget would seek to grow research and development accounts to a total of $71.4 billion in 2017. 

That will go toward projects such as putting micro-cameras and sensors on small bombs to augment targeting capabilities, developing micro-drones and developing self-driving boats. 

The Pentagon seeks to spend more than $8.1 billion in 2017 on undersea capabilities, including buying more advanced payloads and munitions, torpedoes and unmanned undersea vehicles. It will buy nine advanced Virginia-class attack submarines over the next five years and equip them with the more versatile Virginia Payload Module, which will more than triple each submarine platform’s strike capacity from 12 Tomahawk missiles to 40. 

The Pentagon is also investing more in cyber — nearly $7 billion in 2017 and almost $35 billion over the next five years, Carter said. 

He said the Pentagon invested more than $5 billion in new investments in space last year and would invest "even more" but did not give a figure. 

Carter said modernization and readiness was favored over force structure.

To invest more in submarines, Navy fighter jets and other things, the number of planned Littoral Combat Ships was reduced.  

Carter said the Pentagon would also invest in building the force of the future, his initiative to recruit and retain talented service members and civilians. 

Carter said the Pentagon would continue to look for ways to cut waste in the Defense Department's weapons buying process, reducing overhead and reforming the Pentagon's institutional organization.