Biden requests $753B defense budget, a slight increase
President Biden is requesting a $753 billion defense budget for next fiscal year, with $715 billion of that going to the Pentagon.
The fiscal 2022 proposed budget represents a slight increase over this year — likely to upset both progressives, who had sought cuts to Pentagon budgets, and defense hawks.
The budget outline released Friday does not detail exactly what the money would buy, with a more comprehensive proposal expected later this spring.
A fact sheet released by the White House said the Defense Department budget “prioritizes the need to counter the threat from China as the department’s top challenge.”
The budget also “proposes executable and responsible investments” in the Navy fleet, “supports ongoing nuclear modernization programs while ensuring that these efforts are sustainable,” and “continues to ensure that U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and guardians remain the best trained and equipped force in the world,” while also supporting Pentagon plans to “divest legacy systems,” according to the fact sheet.
It also said the budget would support “efforts to plan for and mitigate impacts of climate change” on Defense Department facilities and invest in “power and energy research and development.”
The overall defense budget includes both Pentagon funding and non-Pentagon programs such as Department of Energy nuclear weapons funding.
Friday’s release officially kicks off the jockeying over the defense budget on Capitol Hill, though lawmakers have already been drawing their battle lines.
While the administration proposes a budget, it is up to Congress to fund the government, and lawmakers routinely deviate from, or sometimes simply ignore, presidential budget requests.
A $753 billion defense budget would be a modest increase over this year’s $740 billion, as would a $715 billion Pentagon budget compared to this year’s $704 billion.
The increases roughly reflect the rate of inflation, likely not enough to appease Republicans who have been pushing Biden to increase the budget by 3 to 5 percent over inflation. That’s the amount of annual increases officials early in the Trump administration said would be necessary to properly fund a strategy that reorients the military toward competition with China and Russia.
Progressive Democrats, meanwhile, have been urging Biden to slash the defense budget by at least 10 percent, arguing the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated U.S. spending priorities have been misguided.
Liberal groups were fuming ahead of Friday’s budget release after reports of the $715 billion Pentagon figure.
“President Trump’s Pentagon budget was already outrageous. President Biden just outdid it,” Win Without War advocacy director Erica Fein said in a statement Thursday night. “Following a year of deadly proof that throwing money at the Pentagon does not keep us safe from modern day threats, it is unconscionable to not only extend Trump’s spending spree, but to add to it.”
In response to progressive criticism, an administration official defended the request by arguing the budget works to bring non-defense spending “back to its 30-year historical average.”
“Part of what I hope people take away from this is we have to look at both what we are presenting on the non-defense and defense sides of the equation,” the official told reporters Friday. “I think part of the complaints had been that there was not the same investment levels on the non-defense side. That is clearly not the case in this budget request.”
The official added “a large chunk” of the increase in the defense budget “is to pay for the pay increase for men and women in uniform and the civilians that support them.”
“I think that’s something we could find support for on both sides of the aisle,” the official said.
The fiscal 2022 budget is the first in a decade that won’t be constrained by budget caps set in a law that expired this year.
In a major change, Biden’s budget would eliminate the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account that was not subject to those budget caps and put the money in the Pentagon’s base budget, according to the fact sheet.
The OCO account was meant to be a war fund, but critics on both sides of the aisle said it had been increasingly used as a slush fund to skirt the budget caps law.
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