Biden administration proposes bigger defense budget to counter China and Russia

The Biden administration’s defense budget remains focused on China as the main strategic challenge, emphasizing the strengthening of European security in light of the threat posed by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

“If you look broadly at their capabilities, their economy, China remains our most difficult strategic threat. It’s what the strategy says, it’s what the budget says,” a senior defense official told reporters. before the release of the budget.

The Biden administration’s proposal includes $773 billion in funding specifically for the Pentagon over the coming year. Congress, which will ultimately set spending levels for the federal government, is expected to increase that figure, just as it did in the fiscal year 2022 spending program.

Republicans were quick to react to the Pentagon’s budget rollout, arguing it wasn’t enough for the US military in the face of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and China’s military investments. Liberal Democrats, however, have criticized the Biden administration for increasing the defense budget.

While the 2023 budget proposal was crafted before Russia invaded Ukraine last month, the Biden administration’s defense budget recognizes the “acute threat” posed by Russia, according to budget documents from the Biden administration. Department of Defense. Russia “pursues a political, economic and military strategy that aims to fracture NATO,” the Pentagon said.

The defense budget includes $6.9 billion in funding for a European Deterrence Initiative to counter Russian aggression and support Ukraine – funding the White House touted in a fact sheet outlining the entire federal budget proposal on Monday.
In the fiscal year 2022 spending bill approved last month, Congress passed an additional $13.6 billion funding bill to provide security assistance to Ukraine and help resupply Ukrainians in arms.

It is virtually impossible to estimate how long the war between Russia and Ukraine will last, making it incredibly difficult to know whether the United States will provide further security assistance to kyiv. The United States has added thousands of troops to Eastern Europe on temporary deployments to bolster NATO’s eastern flank.

“The difficult question is whether it will last for a short or a long time,” the official said. “I would certainly say that there is a possibility that there is a supplement for Ukraine.”

Additional security aid bills for Ukraine would also require congressional action. Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord suggested to reporters on Monday that an additional supplement for Ukraine would likely be later this year.

Modernize the army

Overall US Army troop levels are set to drop by 3,000. The US Navy is proposing to decommission 24 ships, including nine littoral combat ships and five cruisers. The beleaguered littoral combat ships faced ongoing problems, including repeated breakdowns and questions about their limited armament.

The ships have been hailed as part of the US deterrent against China, as they were designed to operate in shallow waters like the South China Sea. But the dismantling of so many in a year seems to be an acknowledgment that expensive surface combatants have failed to live up to expectations.

And in the air, the Pentagon only plans to buy 61 F-35 jets, down from 85 bought last year. The Air Force is also proposing the withdrawal of A-10 attack aircraft and F-22 fighters.

All of these plans are likely being pushed back by Congress, which has repeatedly resisted cuts that would hurt arms suppliers based in their districts or bases and shipyards that could shrink if planes and ships are cut.

The defense official said the proposed budget increase was not intended to increase the size of the US military, but rather to help modernize it to compete with Russia and China.

Many of the department’s programs, even if they don’t apply specifically to Russia or China, address the challenges posed by both countries, the official noted. This includes investments like space, cyber and industrial base.

“Top line growth is not about enlarging strength,” the official said. “It’s about modernizing the force to compete with our close opponents.”

Still, the proposed budget includes $6.1 billion in funding for Pacific deterrence, including bolstering Guam’s defense and a new missile warning and tracking architecture.

The Pentagon said its budget “prioritizes China as the preeminent stimulus challenge while developing capabilities and operational concepts in the Indo-Pacific.”

Inflation posed its own challenge to the Defense Department’s budget, even though the request was finalized before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove up fuel prices.

“We did our best given that at some point you have to break the chalk line and finish with what you know at that point,” the official said. “Inflation in the future, based on the Russian impact of the spike in fuel prices in Ukraine – this is a new variable that will have to be taken into account.”

Largest budget for research and supply

With a focus on modernizing the military, the budget request includes the biggest investment ever in procurement, research and development, at $276 billion.

The Department of Defense’s emphasis on building “integrated deterrence” requires the modernization of the military in all areas of warfare: air, land, sea, cyber and space. The budget calls for $56.6 billion to purchase F-35 and F-15EX fighter jets while the military develops the B-21 bombers and drones.

At sea, the budget calls for $40.8 billion to build eight combat force fleet ships, including nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The budget request also provides $12.6 billion to upgrade combat equipment for the Army and Marine Corps.

Beyond the battlefield, the budget request includes $479 million to implement the recommendations of the Pentagon’s Independent Sexual Assault Review Panel, one of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s top priorities. when he took office.

The budget would also provide a 4.6% wage increase for military and civilian employees, which the administration billed as the largest pay increase in two decades.

And it expands the department’s commitment to prepare for climate change, including a request for $3.1 billion in investments to “lay the foundation for a more capable future force.”

The requested budget also included a $1 billion flexible fund to manage the response to the fuel leak at the Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility in Hawaii. Austin announced in early March that it had made the decision to close the facility after an oil leak contaminated the water. Around one million people depend on the facility for water.

The manager described the amount as “more than a down payment”, while acknowledging the challenge of predicting exactly how much money will be needed to meet the installation, especially with ongoing litigation.


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