Defense & National Security — Biden facing ire over defense budget
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President Biden is under fire from the left over his requested national defense budget for fiscal year 2023.
We’ll dive deep into the details, plus Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering a large-scale draft amid his ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s get to it!
Biden faces fury from left over defense budget
President Biden finds himself in the middle of a contentious debate between progressives and vulnerable centrist Democrats over how much to spend on defense.
Liberals like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are not happy with Biden’s $31 billion proposed increase for the Pentagon when their social spending priorities are in limbo over concern about the nation’s mounting debt.
At the same time, vulnerable incumbents such as Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) are fending off Republican attacks that Biden is not spending enough on defense when Russia is on the move in Europe and China poses an “over-the-horizon” threat.
Biden’s pivot: Biden has pivoted to the center in an attempt to bolster his weak support among independents and swing voters, who will make up a key bloc in the midterms.
His budget for fiscal year 2023 also calls for $1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. The budget he submitted to Congress last year, by contrast, would have increased deficits by $1.4 trillion over 10 years.
Biden’s fiscal plan calls for $32 billion to put more police officers in the streets, something else designed to appeal to centrists.
The progressive side: Biden’s budget, which he submitted to Congress on Monday, would increase military spending by 4 percent, bringing the national defense budget to $813 billion.
“I think this year’s number was too much,” said Warren, referring to the $782 billion Congress enacted for national defense in fiscal 2022.
Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, also raised concerns on Wednesday about giving the Pentagon more funds when lawmakers can’t account for all of its current spending.
“The Pentagon is the only agency, federal agency, that has not undergone a successful independent audit. Nobody doubts, nobody, that there are tens of billions of dollars in waste and fraud and cost overruns. Tens of billions is a conservative estimate,” Sanders said.
The vulnerable side: Democratic senators facing tough reelection races argue that defense spending needs to be a priority when the United States is sending billions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine.
“We want to make sure the Ukrainians have what they need to fight back against this illegal invasion,” said Kelly, a top target of Republicans in the midterm elections.
“There are costs involved. We’re going to have to replenish our personal supply of Javelins, Stingers, RPGs, small arms. This stuff is expensive, so we’ll take a look at it,” he added.
Warnock, another vulnerable Democratic incumbent, said, “We live in a dangerous world, we need to make our national defense is strong.”
Putin orders draft of 135,000
Russian President Vladimir Putin is ordering a draft of nearly 135,000 individuals as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not been the easy success story the Kremlin was hoping for.
The move comes more than a month into Russia’s attack on Ukraine, a war many believed Russia would win in days.
Western countries said the resistance of the Ukrainian people came as a shock to Moscow, and Russia has still been unable to capture any major cities.
Details of the draft: The government published a decree by Putin on Monday that stated 134,650 Russians who are not already in the military or reserves will be drafted, state media outlet TASS reported.
The draft will run from April 1 to July 15 and choose from men ages 18-27, according to the document.
The document from Monday also says military personnel will be discharged whose contracts are up, according to TASS.
Is Putin self-isolating? President Biden said Thursday that Putin appears to be self-isolating following U.S. intelligence reports that the Russian leader feels “misled” by his military.
“That’s an open question,” Biden said at the White House when asked how badly Putin is being misinformed by his advisers.
“There’s a lot of speculation but he seems to be — I’m not saying this with a certainty — he seems to be self-isolating and there’s some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers,” he added.
GOP WANTS ADMINISTRATION TO TESTIFY ON UKRAINE AID
House Republicans are demanding that the Oversight and Reform Committee “immediately” convene a hearing with top Biden administration officials on the $13.6 billion aid package to address Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The lawmakers want Secretary of State Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator (USAID) Samantha Power and OMB Director Shalanda Young to testify before the panel.
Testimony is ‘vital:’ In a letter to committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), 17 GOP lawmakers led by committee ranking member Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) said it was “vital” that the funding ensure that the appropriated aid is “distributed effectively and efficiently to best support not only the Ukrainian military resistance but also those Ukrainian civilians currently under Russian siege or displaced by Russian aggression.”
About the aid package: The supplemental aid package was included in the $1.5 trillion government funding bill that President Biden signed earlier this month to fund the government through September.
Among its provisions, the deal included roughly $6.5 billion for the Department of Defense to support deployments to the region and to replenish stocks of equipment sent to Ukraine. It also included nearly $4 billion for the State Department and nearly $2.8 billion for USAID, including money for humanitarian assistance programs.
Read the full story here.
ON TAP TOMORROW
- The Atlantic Council will host a discussion on “How to End Russia’s War in Ukraine” at 8 a.m.
- The Middle East Institute will host a discussion on “Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine and Implications for Black Sea Security” at 9 a.m.
- The Center for a New American Security “Assessing the FY 2023 Defense Budget Request” at 10 a.m.
- The House Armed Services Committee will hold a “Subcommittee Hearing: FY23 Hearing to Review Department of Defense Strategy, Policy, and Programs for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction” at 10 a.m.
- The Cato Institute will host a discussion on “Reducing Risk From Arms Sales” at 12 p.m.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Ukraine to receive more military aid from Britain, allies
- NSA agent facing federal charges for allegedly sending classified info through personal email
- Russian hackers target NATO, US organizations with phishing campaigns: Google
- Meeks, McCaul introduce bill to document Russian war crimes in Ukraine
That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!
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