The $718 billion defense budget request for fiscal year 2020 addresses growing threats from Russia and China, the Defense Department’s top leaders told Congress today.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified on the budget before the Senate Armed Services Committee. They were joined by David L. Norquist, DOD’s comptroller and chief financial officer.
“China’s defense spending approaches that of the U.S., when we take into account purchasing power and the portion of our budget going to military pay and benefits,” Shanahan told the senators. “That, coupled with China’s organized approach to steal foreign technology, has allowed China to modernize its missile, space, and cyber capabilities, as well as project power far beyond its borders.”
He also noted that Russia “continues to compete asymmetrically with the U.S., modernizing and developing its own missile, space, and cyber capabilities.”
Dunford noted that the capabilities developed by China and Russia “limit our ability to operate freely in space, cyberspace, land, sea and air.”
“The capabilities we identified in this year’s budget are really designed to allow us to project power when and where necessary to advance our interest in the context of that emerging threat from China and Russia,” the chairman said
Shanahan added that besides addressing threats from China and Russia, the budget also was built to deter and defeat terrorists and other regional threats.
High-End Weapons Delivered
Shanahan provided an overview of some of the budget request’s provisions that address the great power competition with Russia and China. Development of hypersonics, missile defense system capability improvements and modernization of the nuclear triad represent significant portions of the budget, he said, adding that the budget includes double-digit increases to investments in both space and cyber, to include establishing the Space Force.
The request would fund the department’s largest research, development, testing and evaluation budget in 70 years, Shanahan said, noting that it includes research for disruptive technologies, which he called important game-changers.
This is also the largest shipbuilding request in 20 years, he said. Included are construction of three Virginia-class attack submarines and two Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers.
Trade-offs Were Made
This is a “requirement-informed budget” needed to support the 2018 National Defense Strategy, Shanahan said. As such, he told the Senate panel, trade-offs were required. For example, he said, retiring the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman is one of the strategic choices made in formulating this year’s budget request. “It was a very difficult decision for us,” he added.
The Truman decision was made in concert with the Navy’s request to buy two new aircraft carriers, the acting defense secretary said. That decision will grow employment in the shipyards and the supply chain and will increase lethality, he told the senators. The purchase of the new carriers saved $4 billion, Shanahan said, and the decision not to refuel the Truman, but to retire it early instead, saved $3.4 billion.
The other services also made painful tradeoffs, Shanahan said, noting that the Army cut or reduced spending for about 100 programs to fund its six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicles, future vertical-lift aircraft, network improvements, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.
Norquist told the panel that in addition to having a budget that supports the National Defense Strategy, reform efforts also are important to the Defense Department. The recently completed first departmentwide audit “was not a paperwork exercise,” he said.
Tangible benefits resulted, Norquist said. Some organizations learned of erroneous data on items they thought they had or didn’t have in their inventory and ins the labeling of some items on a scale from usable to unusable, he said.
The audit resulted in cost savings and greater readiness, and the department looks forward to future audits, along with improvements in its own internal processes, Norquist added.