The Pentagon has been conducting a “running reset” on its aircraft, ships, nuclear assets and ground vehicles over the past two years due to the limits placed on defense spending by the Budget Control Act (BCA), senior defense leaders said Monday, but the fiscal 2016 budget request looks to kick-start the modernization process in a big way.
And that push is being funded in part by an additional $21 billion added to the 2016 budget request aimed specifically at that modernization.
“This budget is the best balance of ends, ways and means that we could possibly achieve given the level of resources” available, said Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work at an afternoon briefing with reporters. “And this is especially true with regard to maintaining our technological superiority in the 21st century.”
Work said that this “deferred modernization problem” of the past several years has caused the department to try and “tackle it in this budget and we need help above sequestration caps to do so … we think this is the right budget.”
The $534 billion budget, which rips right past the BCA’s $499 billion spending cap, is part of a larger five-year spending plan that will go $155 billion over the caps imposed by Congress and signed off on by the White House.
But Work said the Pentagon must spend over the caps to allow the department to execute the national defense strategy with manageable risk, or else the force “will become brittle and more prone to breaking.”
Any reduction for funding that is below the $534 billion request “will make the overall risk to the strategy unmanageable” he claimed. “The best way to say it is we’ve been surviving, but not thriving, over the past three years,” under the BCA.
The DoD does have some big bills coming due in the coming years with the nuclear deterrent force preparing for an expensive modernization in the 2020s and into the 2030s, and billions in classified spending on space capabilities to add more resilience to a satellite fleet increasingly under threat from jamming and hostile actions by China and other peer competitors.