You call this a defense budget?
THE MIL & AERO COMMENTARY – We're still a long way from seeing a detailed U.S. defense budget proposal for fiscal 2018, despite the release last week of a booklet entitled "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again." It's not much help for those looking for details of upcoming military spending.
While some identified this document as the 2018 federal budget request to Congress, it simply is not. It can take a forklift to move the actual federal budget request; this "blueprint" is 53 pages long, and hits only the high spots -- to say the least.
We may not see the actual 2018 budget request until May, and that's just a guess. Meanwhile, here are some of the highlights of last week's 2018 budget blueprint for the U.S. Department of Defense.
"The President’s 2018 Budget requests $639 billion for DOD, a $52 billion increase from the 2017 annualized CR [continuing resolution] level," the blueprint states. "The total includes $574 billion for the base budget, a 10 percent increase from the 2017 annualized CR [continuing resolution} level, and $65 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations."
The document calls for additional defense spending for military cyber security, ships and submarines, munitions, and F-35 joint strike fighters.
The two-page blueprint for DOD calls for repeals of defense sequestration by restoring $52 billion to the DOD budget, as well as $2 billion to other national-defense programs outside of DOD, for a $54 billion total increase in defense spending over current levels. Other than that, the new document is pretty thin.
The Pentagon's actual budget request, when submitted to Congress later this spring, will come in several sections, each of which can approach 100 pages or more. It's a line-by-line detail of how much the nation's top military leaders want to spend for the year, and where they want to spend it.
The blueprint, on the other hand, promises more money to fight ISIS terrorism, and seeks to address urgent warfighting readiness needs. It addresses "pressing shortfalls, such as insufficient stocks of critical munitions, personnel gaps, deferred maintenance and modernization, cyber vulnerabilities, and degraded facilities."
The document also promises a "new National Defense Strategy that recognizes the need for American superiority not only on land, at sea, in the air, and in space, but also in cyberspace," and contains a promise "to reduce the costs of military programs wherever feasible."
The U.S. Army would see an end to strength personnel and materiel reductions, takes an "initial step toward restoring an Army that has been stressed by high operational demand and constrained funding levels in recent years."
As for the U.S. Navy, the 2018 budget will increase the total number of ships, and "reflects a down payment on the President’s commitment to expanding the fleet."
The blueprint promises to accelerate U.S. Air Force efforts to improve tactical air fleet readiness, ensure technical superiority, and repair aging infrastructure.
"Key investments in maintenance capacity, training systems, and additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters would enable the Air Force, which is now the smallest it has been in history, to counter the growing number of complex threats from sophisticated state actors and transnational terrorist groups," the blueprint states.
As far as details go, that's about it. For the rest of the story we'll have to wait until the real budget goes to Congress later this spring.
It's good news for our industry that President Donald Trump wants to increase defense spending by $54 billion. It's also good news that the president wants to eliminate the threat of sequestration. Few could argue with that.
So there could be a commitment to defense spending increases that we haven't seen from an administration in many years. The elimination of the sequestration across-the-board defense budget cuts also gets rid of one major bit of uncertainty that's stifled technology innovation and enthusiasm for the past several years.
Still, it's not such good news, however, if you want to see how the budget will influence technology areas like embedded computing, electro-optics, C4ISR, electronic warfare (EW), power electronics, RF and microwave, test and measurement, and unmanned vehicles.
The budget blueprint whets the appetite, yet still leaves us hungry for the deeper story. We know President Trump wants to increase spending for cyber security, nuclear force modernization, and the Navy's surface and submarine fleets, but what are the enabling technologies that will fare best in the upcoming budget?
Defense industry executives want to know now what they need to do to prepare for an uptick in military spending. They want to know who the winners are, and who gets left behind.
We could speculate, but it's facts and numbers that we really want. Guess we'll have to hang on for another couple of months.