Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Budget plan shows Pentagon not a priority of Biden administration, experts say

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s budget request for the 2022 financial year has made it clear that defense is not his top priority at a time when the Chinese communist regime is building up its military might, posing a threat to US security interests.

The president’s budget released on May 28 for the 2022 fiscal year, wants $ 752.9 billion for national defense, of which $ 715 billion is for the Pentagon. Compared to the fixed amount of the 2021 financial year, the budget request for the Department of Defense reflects only an increase of 1.6 percent.

“Defense is not a Biden administrative priority,” Elaine McCusker, an expert on defense budgets at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said on June 1 during a virtual event hosted by AEI.

“Defense was the only federal function that did not even keep pace with inflation, while local agencies rose 16 percent, including a 41 percent increase for the Department of Education.” McCusker said. “Also noteworthy is that the Corps of Engineers was the only federal agency that cut by 10 percent.”

The Department of Health and Human Services, for example, would get a 23.4 percent increase and the Environmental Protection Agency would get a 21.6 percent boost according to the budget plan.

“There is an attempt to define what a national security investment is to divert defense funds to non-nuclear activities,” McCusker said.

She pointed out that there was no question of military capabilities among critical investments under the heading “Confronting 21st Century Security Challenges” in the budget, while COVID-19 Foreign Aid, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund and the establishment of ‘ a global health safety agenda was one of the government’s commitments.

There was also no mention of ‘border security’ in the budget proposal. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security remained steady compared to the previous year. The budget proposal aims to set aside more resources for the processing of higher asylum cases and to support up to 20,000 refugee admissions by 2022. The budget also provides $ 10 billion in humanitarian aid to war victims and refugees abroad.

President Biden’s first budget request also reflects a shift in priorities compared to former President Donald Trump’s proposals.

The Biden administration’s budget follows a broader approach to national security to address threats such as climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic and “extremism in the ranks,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

For example, the budget would be allocated $ 30 million to help the Department of Defense improve the ability to identify and address extremism among troops and improve training.

Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said during the event that it is difficult to know the vision of the defense budget as it does not contain the details of the five-year projections.

The projections from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have shown that the budget of the Department of Defense will grow by 2.2 percent in nominal terms over the next five years, he noted. Outside the five-year period, however, budget growth will drop to 1 percent.

The good thing about the president’s budget for the 2022 financial year, according to Harrison, is that it continues to increase funding for research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT & E).

Biden’s plan search $ 112 billion funding for RDT & E, which according to the Pentagon is the “biggest ever” request.

This investment could put the U.S. military ‘in a position to modernize in the coming years and to expand the kinds of capabilities we need to compete effectively in the future,’ Harrison said. However, pushing money into research and development, he warned, may not necessarily lead to modernization and an increase in procurement in the coming years.

“So we can not see if this is their strategy now,” he said.

The budgets of the air force and the space force were overall winners in Biden’s plan compared to the navy and army, he added.

While the navy’s top budget would rise, the service’s shipbuilding and aircraft procurement funding would decline, according to the president’s budget proposal.

According to a Pentagon report last year, China largest fleet in the world, with a total army of nearly 350 ships.

Under the Trump administration last year, the Pentagon launched a program called Battle Force 2045 to address China’s threat. The program called for a fleet of more than 500 crew and unmanned ships. The Biden’s budget showed that the plan was rolled back.

John Ferrari, a retired U.S. military general and defense expert from the AEI, said he was “most surprised at how the Navy and government are walking away” from the Battle Force 2045 plan.

“I do not know how the fleet is going forward,” Ferrari said. “But I think the fleet needs to accept innovation in the short term, given how long it takes to build ships.”

He said inflation was also a major problem for the Pentagon’s budget, given the small increase the OMB predicts in the long run.

“Inflation is the hidden danger that the defense budget could eat up,” he said, noting that the U.S. inflation-protected savings effect yields 3.5 percent.

“So if it’s an expectation of 3.5 percent inflation, the department is in a lot of trouble.”

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Nation World News Desk
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