WASHINGTON, Feb. 09, 2016 —
The fiscal year 2017 defense budget request takes the long view of funding the department, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said here today.
The request totals $523.9 billion in the so-called base budget and $58.8 billion in the overseas contingency operations fund, for a total of $582.7 billion.
The budget topline sustains the national security and defense strategies, Work said, and the figures conform to the budget levels found in the bipartisan budget agreement signed in November.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter asked Pentagon officials to look into the future to ensure the structures are in place today for excellence tomorrow, Work said, adding that the budget request is built around five challenges that officials see.
“The first two challenges reflect what we consider to be the most significant shift in the future security environment, and that is a return to an era of great power competition,” the deputy secretary said. “Today, we are faced by a resurgent, revanchist Russia and a rising China. Both are nuclear-armed powers. Both are fielding advanced capabilities at a rapid rate. Both are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and both take issue with some aspects of the principled international order that has preserved stability and enabled the peaceful pursuit of prosperity for decades.”
Increased Competition in the Years Ahead
Noting that Russia is fomenting instability in Ukraine and along the rest of its western border and China has become aggressive in the South China Sea, Work said this requires an American response. Even as the United States cooperates with Russia and China in many areas, he added, it is prudent for the Defense Department to “be prepared for a period of increased competition over the next 25 years” The budget request sets the stage for this, he said.
North Korea is another strategic challenge, Work said, pointing out that it has nuclear weapons and has developed ballistic missiles that clearly could threaten U.S. allies in the region. “It is committed to developing long-range, nuclear-armed missiles such as the KN-O8, which could pose a direct threat to the continental United States if it is successfully designed and fielded,” the deputy secretary said.
Added to this, he said, is the unpredictable nature of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Iran and Violent Extremists Pose Further Challenges
Iran, and with delusions of being the dominant power in the Middle , also poses a challenge, Work said “In support of its goal, it is pursuing a wide range of destabilizing activities throughout the region, threatening our allies and partners, particularly Israel,” he said. “While we hope that Iran will moderate its malign activities over time, we concluded we must be prepared to counter them, as well as any moves that that country takes to violate the recent agreement to curtail its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
Lastly, the deputy secretary also noted the continuing threat posed by violent extremists, exemplified by the current campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“Now, from our perspective, the campaign against global terrorist networks will be an enduring condition for much of the next 25 years, and we have to be prepared to monitor it constantly [and to] respond to and treat it when necessary,” Work said.
All this means the defense budget undergirds a portfolio with the capacities, capabilities and readiness to address all five strategic challenges with some degree of risk, the deputy secretary said. “That’s important to note: The president’s budget allows us to execute our national military and defense strategies,” he added.
Constrained Resources Require Priorities
But this is an era of constrained resources, Work said, the U.S. military cannot reduce every risk associated with every strategic challenge and therefore must prioritize.
Work said Carter directed planners to prioritize strengthening the conventional deterrent against the most advanced potential adversaries. But rather than a man-for-man match or a strength-on-strength contest, he added, the secretary wanted the U.S. military “to offset their strengths using new technological, operational and organizational constructs to achieve a lasting advantage and to strengthen deterrence.” And any capability that can be used against peer competitors can be used against a lesser foe, he noted.
The secretary looked for balance in the budget between readiness, capacity and modernization, Work said, and he told planners to focus on reconstituting full-spectrum readiness.
The budget request now goes to Congress. In the weeks and months ahead, the House of Representatives and the Senate will debate its provisions and determine the department’s final budget for the fiscal year.