Pentagon seeks military budget reductions in President Obama's last year in office

THE MIL & AERO COMMENTARY, 9 Feb. 2016. Leaders of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) are doing their best to put a good face on what amounts to be a shrinking U.S. military budget from this year to next.

After big defense cuts, what lies ahead?
After big defense cuts, what lies ahead?
Dod Budget 9 Feb 2016THE MIL & AERO COMMENTARY, 9 Feb. 2016. Leaders of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) are doing their best to put a good face on what amounts to be a shrinking U.S. military budget from this year to next.

The fiscal 2017 DOD budget request to Congress, released today, would reduce overall Pentagon spending by $2.2 billion over last year's request, and proposes a $10.3 billion cut from the 2016 request in discretionary spending for crucial accounts like procurement, research, operations, maintenance, military construction, salaries, and health care.

The 2017 DOD budget request asks Congress for a total of $583 billion, whereas the 2016 total request was for $585.2 billion. The budget request for next year's discretionary spending is $524 billion, where the 2016 request was for $534.3 billion. Federal fiscal year 2017 begins next October 1.

The only area where the 2017 DOD budget proposes an increase over the 2016 request is in overseas contingency operations to pay for continuing military operations in Southwest Asia to support the global war on terrorism and the spread of radical Islamic organizations like ISIS. The 2017 budget asks for $59 billion for overseas contingency operations, while the 2016 request was for $50.9 billion.

So much for any hopes of increasing military spending in President Barack Obama's last year in office.

Related: U.S. defense budget to remain relatively flat through 2020, say analysts at IHS Research

Despite the stark realization of a year of defense cuts, however, let's look for a silver lining. At least the cuts aren't THAT big, are they? Maybe the defense industry can take solace in a possibility of some increases in the Overseas Contingency Operations budget. At least there's no sequestration on the horizon, moreover, so companies can plan somewhat accurately for the future.

Realistically, however, I think we can plan for another year of stagnation in the defense industry, where companies simply will maintain operations and keep their powder dry as best they can in hopes of some kind of turnaround from the presidential election in November.

That said, here are some highlights of the 2017 DOD budget request:

-- a $7.5 billion to support counter-ISIS operations, including air strikes, training, and Special Operations in Southwest Asia. Pentagon leaders claim this is a 50 percent increase over 2016 enacted levels.

-- $1.2 billion to expand intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) support for counter terrorism by building to 90 combat air patrols available for use by combatant commands. The ISR fleet will include a joint-force mix of Predator, Reaper, Extended Range Reaper, and Advanced Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Related: 2017 DOD budget to roll out next week: has Pentagon spending finally bottomed out?

-- postponing final retirement of the Air Force A-10 ground-attack aircraft to 2022, together with the introduction of F-35 aircraft into the fleet.

-- rotating the Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to Singapore and Northern Australia; moving Marine Corps forces to Guam and the Philippines; and basing F-35 jet fighters and additional ballistic missile defense surface warships in Japan.

-- countering Iran by funding the Israeli Iron Dome and David’s Sling projects.

-- $6.7 billion to strengthen cyber defenses by defending DOD networks against cyber-attacks; creating 133 cyber security teams by the end of 2018; and providing a virtual training environment for cyber personnel.

Related: Pentagon submits largest defense budget in four years, with healthy increases in procurement, RDT&E

-- building 308 Navy ships and submarines by 2024, as well as buying additional combat system upgrades for destroyers, a maritime strike Tomahawk missile capability, a new lightweight torpedo, electronic warfare upgrades, and more SM-6 missiles.

-- $2.5 billion for an additional Virginia Payload Module for Virginia-class fast-attack submarines that carries Tomahawk cruise missiles; 10 submarine combat systems upgrades; submarine quieting and sensing upgrades; an improved MK-48 torpedo; and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) for submarines.

-- maintaining 55 combat-coded Air Force jet fighter squadrons; upgrading the electronic warfare (EW) system for the F-15 jet fighter-bomber fleet; improved radars for F-16 fighters and B-52 bombers; upgraded communications equipment for the B-1 bomber; and enhanced mission systems for the B-2 stealth bomber.

-- and kicking off funding for the LRS-B next generation bomber.

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