Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches $715B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates

Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches $715B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates
© Getty Images

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: The Pentagon on Friday released a $715 billion budget proposal it says is geared toward competing with China by shedding older weapons systems and investing in new technologies.

The biggest changes: Among the major shifts, the Air Force is asking to retire more than 200 aircraft and would fund an operational hypersonic cruise missile for the first time, requesting $200 million for such a program.

The budget plan would also provide $5.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, the fund created by Congress to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The department in this budget takes a clear-eyed approach to Beijing and provides the investments to prioritize China as our pacing challenge,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told reporters on Friday.

Tough choices: Hicks added the budget also documents “some of the tough choices we had to make,” including getting rid of “systems that are no longer suited for today's advanced threat environment or are too costly to sustain.” Instead, that money will be reallocate to fund research and development in advanced technologies, such as microelectronics, to “provide the foundation for fielding a full range of needed capabilities, such as hypersonic missiles, artificial intelligence and 5G.”

Criticisms: The spending plan is unlikely to quell criticism from Republicans that the defense budget is too small to meet the challenges posed by China, while many progressives have argued that it is too large in the face of pressing domestic needs and nonmilitary threats such as pandemics.

President BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE’s defense budget request is wholly inadequate — it’s nowhere near enough to give our service members the resources, equipment and training they need,” Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofePentagon chief backs change to military sexual assault prosecution Overnight Defense: Biden participates in NATO summit | White House backs 2002 AUMF repeal | Top general says no plans for airstrikes to help Afghan forces after withdrawal Top Republican proposes leaving 1,000 US troops in Afghanistan into next year MORE (Okla.) and Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersA balance of pragmatism and agendas shaped the U.S.-Russia summit 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday 'Havana Syndrome' and other escalations mark a sinister turn in the spy game MORE (Ala.), the top Republicans on the Senate and House Armed Services committees, said in a joint statement Friday. “It’s disingenuous to call this request an increase because it doesn’t even keep up with inflation — it’s a cut.”

By contrast, Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanThe Memo: The pre-Trump 'normal' is gone for good Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches 5B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates Pentagon pitches 5B budget with cuts to older weapons MORE (D-Wis.) and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeOvernight Defense: House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers | Pentagon leaders press senators to reimburse National Guard | New pressure on US-Iran nuclear talks House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers Overnight Defense: Biden, Putin agree to launch arms control talks at summit | 2002 war authorization repeal will get Senate vote | GOP rep warns Biden 'blood with be on his hands' without Afghan interpreter evacuation MORE (D-Calif.) blasted the budget as a “failure” for increasing defense funding.

Out with the old: All told, the Pentagon is proposing $2.8 billion in divestments, according to budget documents.

The military wants to retire so-called legacy systems that are expected to be a major fight with Congress, where lawmakers fiercely protect weapons programs that benefit their districts.

The Air Force is seeking to retire 42 A-10 Warthogs, 47 F-16C/D and 48 F-15C/D fighter jets, 14 KC-10 and 18 KC-135 tankers, 13 C-130H transport planes and 16 E-8 and 20 RQ-4 drones.

The Navy, meanwhile, is proposing to retire four littoral combat ships, among other cuts. 

And in with the new: Among the purchases in the budget, the military services are asking for $12 billion for 85 F-35 fighter jets.

The Navy is seeking eight new warships: two Virginia-class submarines, one DDG-51 Aegis destroyer, one Constellation-class frigate, one John LewisJohn LewisCan Manchin answer his predecessor's call on voting rights? Biden to deliver remarks on voting access next week Schumer vows next steps after 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE-class refueler, two Navajo-class T-ATS salvage and towing vessels and one auxiliary ocean surveillance vessel.

The budget also includes $2.6 billion for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, the program to replace the aging U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal that has been a prime target for lawmakers looking to rein in the Pentagon budget. 

Read more about the budget here.



Vice President Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisRick Scott blocks Senate vote on top cyber nominee until Harris visits border Head of Border Patrol resigning from post Migrant children face alarming conditions in US shelter: BBC investigation MORE on Friday addressed the graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy, warning the newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers of a “fragile” world following the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the keynote speech — the first by a woman at a commencement at the nearly 175-year-old institution — Harris said the pandemic had “accelerated our world into a new era,” similar to the way the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks had shaped the country.

“It has forever impacted our world,” she said to roughly 1,000 graduates at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. “It has forever influenced our perspective, and if we weren’t clear before, we know now: Our world is interconnected. Our world is interdependent, and our world is fragile."

A new era: A pandemic can spread throughout the globe in a matter of months, a gang of hackers can disrupt the fuel supply of the eastern seaboard, and one country's carbon emissions can threaten the sustainability of the Earth, she added.

“This, midshipmen, is the era we are in, and it is unlike any era that came before. ... The challenge before us now is how to mount a modern defense to these modern threats.”

A different tone: Harris’s address was a far cry from former President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE’s in 2018, when he told graduates that his efforts in the Oval Office have boosted the nation’s prestige in the eyes of the world and that other countries “are respecting us again.”

Presidents and vice presidents give the commencement speeches to the service academies on a rotating basis. The ceremony was not held in person last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Other threats: Harris also touched on climate change, describing it as “a very real threat to our national security,” as well as cybersecurity threats, calling the Colonial Pipeline hack earlier this month “a warning shot” in what the graduates will soon face.

She also referred to the Biden administration’s vaccination effort and the military’s role in distributing and administering the shot, telling the class “the American people are depending on you.”

“We saw this during COVID-19 when Americans watched how members of our military helped vaccinate our nation, because you know biological threats like pandemics and infectious diseases are yet another threat in this era," she said.

Read more about the speech here



-- The Hill: Trump West Point appointee spread conspiracy theory: report

-- The Hill: Milley says U.S. planning for potential evacuation of Afghan translators from region

-- The Hill: Homeland Security warns Tulsa events could be targeted by white supremacists: report

-- The Hill: Biden budget includes $750M to help agencies recover from SolarWinds hack in proposed budget

--The Hill: Khanna, Mace introduce bill to strengthen federal cyber workforce following major hacks

-- Defense One: Afghanistan, Iraq drawdowns cut $3.2B from US Army costs, officials say

-- Military Times: The Pentagon wants a new ‘reg’ for prosecuting extremism