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Acting SECDEF: National Defense Strategy is ‘undisputed driver’ in budget request

  • Published
  • By Terri Moon Cronk

The National Defense Strategy is the undisputed driver of the president’s fiscal year 2020 budget request for the Defense Department, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said on Capitol Hill, March 26.

Shanahan and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee the $718 billion request for the Department of Defense is justified.

“The strategy you supported last year is the same strategy we are asking you to fund this year,” the secretary told committee members.

The $718 billion military budget is critical for continuing to execute the strategy and “reflect difficult, but necessary, decisions that align finite resources with our strategic priorities,” Shanahan said.

The proposed budget is the largest research, development, testing and evaluation budget in 70 years, the secretary said. It includes double-digit increases to U.S. investments in space and cyber, modernization of the nuclear triad and missile defense capabilities and the largest shipbuilding request in 20 years, when adjusted for inflation, he added.

The budget request also increases DoD’s total end strength by about 7,700 service members and allows a 3.1 percent pay increase for the military, the largest in a decade, Shanahan said.

The budget request includes $545 billion for base funding and $164 billion for overseas contingency operations, Shanahan said. Some $66 billion of the OCO funding would go to direct war and enduring requirements and $98 billion would fund base requirements, he added.

In rounded-out numbers, $9.2 billion will fund emergency construction, which includes about $2 billion to rebuild facilities damaged by Hurricanes Florence and Michael. Up to $3.6 billion will support military construction projects that will be awarded in fiscal year 2020 rather than in fiscal 2019 so DoD can resource border-barrier projects under the president’s emergency declaration of this year and $3.6 billion in case additional emergency funding is needed for the border, Shanahan said.

“Military construction on the border will not come at the expense of our people, our readiness or our modernization,” the secretary said.

Shanahan told members there will be no impact on military construction projects already awarded, nor military construction projects with fiscal year 2019 award dates. DoD is solely looking at projects with award dates after Sept. 30, 2019, he added.

Further, the secretary said, no military housing, barracks or dormitory projects will be impacted.

“I appreciate the inherent intragovernment complexities of the southwest border situation,” Shanahan said. “I also want to emphasize: The funds requested for the border barrier amount to less than 1 percent of the national defense topline.”

No enemy in the field has done more damage to the U.S. military’s combat readiness in years past than sequestration and budgetary instability, the secretary told the House panel.

“And there is no question today: Our adversaries are not relenting,” he said.

The secretary said the instability of a continuing resolution would cost DoD in three important ways: The DoD would be unable to put in place new initiatives like standing up the Space Command, or accelerating the development of hypersonic capabilities and artificial intelligence.

Second, DoD’s funding would be in the wrong accounts, Shanahan said, noting that DoD is requesting significant investments in research, development, test and evaluation for cyber, space and disruptive technologies, as well as in core readiness.

Third, he said, “the incremental funding under a [continuing resolution] means we lose buying power. This translates to higher costs and uncertainty for industry and the communities where we operate.”

Dunford told the representatives that 17 years of continuous combat and fiscal instability have affected the military’s readiness and eroded the competitive advantage the United States enjoyed a decade or more ago.

With the help of Congress starting in 2017, the chairman added, the U.S. began to restore its competitive advantage.

“Recent budgets have allowed us to build readiness and invest in new capabilities while meeting current operational commitments,” he said. “But we cannot reverse decades of erosion in just a few years. This year’s budget submission would allow us to continue restoring our competitive advantage by improving readiness and developing capabilities to enhance our lethality.”

The budget proposes investments and advanced capabilities across all domains – air, land, space and cyberspace, he said. It also would sustain investments in the nuclear enterprise to ensure a safe, secure and effective strategic deterrent, the Defense Department’s highest priority, the general said.

“We’ve also taken steps to more effectively employ the force we have today and build the force we need for tomorrow,” the chairman said. “We’ve implemented fundamental changes in our global force management process to prioritize and allocate resources in accordance with the National Defense Strategy while building readiness and the flexibility to respond to unforeseen contingencies.”