Analyst Urges U.S. To Spend Billions More On Defense
During the 2020 presidential race, then-candidate Joe Biden complained that US President Donald Trump had “abandoned all fiscal discipline when it comes to defense spending.” Unsurprisingly, Biden’s first budget—announced in 2021—was a dramatic about-face in fiscal priorities, Kori Schake wrote for Foreign Affairs.
Photo Insert: A rough calculation puts the 2022 Defense Department requirements at $906 billion.
The proposal increased spending for virtually every federal department except the Pentagon. Congress, for its part, considered Biden’s proposal so deficient that it added an additional $29 billion for defense, she added.
Despite congressional pushback and mounting global threats, Biden’s new budget, announced last week, continues down the same dangerous path, said Schake, senior fellow and director of foreign and defense policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
The last National Defense Strategy—produced in 2018—also depended on future spending that neither the president nor Congress provided. Executing the strategy would have required a real spending increase of three to five percent annually over that year’s existing $670 billion defense budget. Such an increase has not been forthcoming.
A rough calculation puts the 2022 Defense Department requirements at $906 billion. The funding just appropriated by Congress, however, amounts to $728 billion, meaning that the gap between Washington’s strategy and its ability to carry out that strategy is a chasm of $178 billion.
The Pentagon’s own accounting of its unfunded needs from the last budget amounts to $22 billion. Addressing that deficit would be a good place to start.
Restoring US naval capabilities, which have stagnated, should be another major priority as the US confronts China. Policymakers should take up the Pentagon’s plan for a 500-ship navy and begin developing the industrial base needed to build it. The Pacific is predominantly a maritime theater, and Beijing’s fleet now surpasses what Washington has to defend its commitments in the region.
Investing in shipbuilding could also provide some much-needed substance to the Biden administration’s concept of “a foreign policy for the middle class” by creating more jobs at home. Analysts estimate the cost of attaining a 500-ship navy at $34 billion per year for 30 years, totaling over $1 trillion.
Making this investment will also result in a valuable expansion of the defense industrial base—the companies that build US weapons and military systems. Aligning strategy with reality should therefore be the focus of the defense planning process from start to finish.
Personnel costs for the current force comprise about 25 percent of the Pentagon’s base budget. A force capable of fighting two wars would need roughly double the current number of 1.3 million service members, at a cost of about $160 billion per year.