2021 Defense Budget Poses Problems

2021 Defense Budget Poses Problems

© David Burton 2020

National Defense

     On February 10, 2020, President Trump released his defense budget request for the next fiscal year, 2021. “The Department of Defense’s budget would go up slightly by 0.1% over the prior year, excluding the $8 billion in emergency disaster relief Congress allocated to the Pentagon in the prior year after hurricanes hit military installations. The entire national defense budget, which includes money for defense-related activities at other federal agencies, including the National Nuclear Security Administration, would be $740.5 billion, up from $738 billion the prior year, excluding emergency and disaster relief funds. Among other priorities, the Pentagon money is slated to go to further investment in the creation of a Space Force, a 3 percent pay increase for the military, and investments in hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence and autonomous weaponry. It continues investments in a vast modernization of the American nuclear arsenal, and includes the largest ever research, development and testing budget, at $106.6 billion, $2.1 billion more than the prior year. The roughly flat overall budget is a plateau after sizable increases were pushed through Congress in the years since Trump took office.” (Ref. 1)

     “Despite growing concerns about China and Russia, the Defense Department’s budget would essentially remain flat under President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget request, [Emphasis mine] which was unveiled Feb. 10.
     “The Army continues to shift money around to fund its top modernization priorities [Emphasis mine] in its fiscal year 2021 budget request.
     “The Navy is proposing cutting back [Emphasis mine] its shipbuilding accounts by $4 billion, according to President Donald Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2021.
     “Great power competition [Emphasis mine] and the cutting edge technologies that support it dominated the Trump administration’s Air Force budget request for the next fiscal year.
     “The newest member of the armed services, the Space Force, received its first budget from the Trump administration as a ‘separate but co-equal’ branch of the U.S. military, asking for $15.4 billion in fiscal year 2021.
     “The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal would cut Marine Corps funding by $1.4 billion and reduce the size of the active duty force, [Emphasis mine] according to budget documents.
     “While artificial intelligence has become a top priority within the Pentagon, a new report by the RAND Corp. has found that the Defense Department has shortcomings in its AI posture.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 2)

     Despite concerns about the adequacy of Trump’s proposed defense budget, he still persisted in diverting money from the defense budget approved by Congress to his obsession of building a wall along the U.S. southern border to stop illegal immigration.

     “ The Trump administration is seeking to shift $3.8 billion more from the defense budget to pay for constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Pentagon notified Congress on Thursday, immediately provoking bipartisan objections for a second year.
     “The plan would pay for a further 177 miles of wall construction by taking the money from Pentagon accounts earmarked to buy fighter aircraft, vehicles, warships and other big-ticket weapons systems [Emphasis mine] . . .
      - - -
     “President Donald Trump, running for reelection, is eager to show progress on the project that was perhaps the No. 1 promise of his 2016 campaign. He vowed as a candidate that Mexico would pay for the wall, but as president he turned instead to the Pentagon’s deep pockets.
     “Last year, he sought to take money from military housing and base construction. This year, by targeting spending for weapons, his proposal drew even more opposition in Congress, from lawmakers in both parties . . .
     “ ‘President Trump and his Administration have spent months trying to take critical resources away from our Armed Forces,’ {the} Senate Minority Leader . . . and {the| House Speaker . . . said in a statement. ‘Congress, not the President, has the power of the purse — a power that cannot be nullified so the President can fulfill an outrageous campaign promise.’ [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     “Lawmakers repeatedly sought to block Trump’s attempts to tap Pentagon funds last year. The president argued that he had authority to use military funds because of what he deemed a national security emergency along the border, a claim that federal courts are still reviewing.
      - - -
     “ ‘Multiple courts have ruled that it is illegal for Trump to pillage military funds for his xenophobic border wall,’ an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement. ‘We’ll be back in court to block these additional, unauthorized transfers.’
     “In the latest proposal, Air Force and Navy aviation take the brunt of the proposed cuts. They would force cancellation of four F-35 and F-22 fighters, two MV-22 Ospreys, four C-130J cargo planes and eight MQ-9 Reaper drones . . .
     “The Pentagon request also strips $156 million in additional funds for the F-35, $180 million for an Air Force light attack aircraft, $650 million for amphibious assault ships and nearly $300 million for Army vehicles. Another $1.5 billion would be taken from accounts used to provide equipment for the National Guard and Reserve.
[Emphasis mine] (Ref. 3)

     “Trump has repeatedly claimed that Mexico is paying for his promised ‘big beautiful wall,’ but that has never happened.” (Ref. 4)

     The proposed 2021 defense budget has other problems facing it. “President Trump has released his 2021 budget nearly eight months before the start of the next fiscal year – plenty of time for Congress to pass it. Lawmakers have already agreed on a defense topline of $740.5 billion. “Nevertheless, it’s still unlikely that Congress will pass appropriations before Oct. 1, [Emphasis mine] experts say.
     "They expect fiscal year 2021 to {once again} begin with a continuing resolution {CR}, which freezes funding at previous fiscal year levels and prevents new-start programs. {Still one more example of our elected officials who unable to do the job to which they have been elected. See Reference 5}
      - - -
     “Fiscal year 2020 began with two continuing resolutions lasting a total of 81 days . . .
     “ ‘There’s no good reason this year’ for lawmakers to fail to pass a budget on time . . . ‘They already have a budget deal. They know where the top line is. They ought to be able to work through it. [But] . . . odds are they probably push this until the lame duck session after the election and try to finish it up then.’
      - - -
     “However, the outcome of the November elections could play a role in whether the 2021 budget is passed before the next presidential inauguration in January . . . (Ref. 6)

     While “the Defense Department’s just-released budget request for fiscal year 2021 spending is up — but only in the most technical sense.
     “The request asks for $740.5 billion in discretionary spending. That’s in line with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019. It’s a 0.3% increase over the FY20 defense budget.
     “But it is effectively a cut. [Emphasis mine] Defense inflation has historically been around 2% of the budget. Any increase of less than $14 billion amounts to a reduction in purchasing power for the Pentagon.
      - - -
     “The defense budget ought to be a careful balance between three major activities: being ready today; buying contemporary capabilities for the next 5 to 10 years; and preparing for the next decades. This budget tilts the playing field in favor of today and the next decades. The Trump administration needs to explain the type of risk that the nation will be incurring in the near future.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 7)

     As an example of the concern posed by President Trump’s proposed 2021 defense budget, consider the following. “Lawmakers are protesting a move to purchase one less Virginia-class submarine in fiscal year 2021, as outlined in President Donald Trump’s budget request released in February.
     “Traditionally, General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding have built two Virginia-class boats each year since 2011.
     “However, the president’s new fiscal blueprint only procures one. . .
      - - -
     “The Trump administration’s decision is part of a bigger move to cut the Navy’s shipbuilding budget by $4 billion, according to the budget request. The plan includes acquiring 44 vessels through 2025. Last year, the service planned to procure 55.
     “Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said in a February House Armed Services Committee hearing that the Virginia-class decision was made ‘at the budget end game very quickly,’ and that service officials were only informed after the decision was made. [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     “Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., a member of HASC’s seapower and projection forces subcommittee, said the process was concerning. ‘The decision was made after the fact and not, it seems, with your input,’ he told Gilday. ‘That does not inspire confidence here.’
     “Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., chairman of the subcommittee, said the move was at odds with the Navy’s priorities.
     “ ‘Year after year, Congress has heard from Navy leaders, combatant commanders and experts about the growing demand for submarine capabilities as countries like China and Russia step up their undersea activity,’ he said in a statement. ‘They have urgently warned us that we need more submarine construction, not less, in order to mitigate the nearly 20 percent reduction in the fleet we presently face within this decade.’
     “Senators also expressed concern about the move. In a bipartisan letter to Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, 17 senators outlined their worries, noting that the decision contradicts the National Defense Strategy, which prioritizes great power competition with China and Russia [Emphasis mine] . . .
     “ ‘This budget request exacerbates this shortfall by decreasing investment in the Virginia-class program,’ the lawmakers said. ‘Such a decision would likely yield loss in capability that does not justify any short-term cost savings, particularly as Russia and China continue significant investment in their respective submarine fleets.’
     “The senators also expressed concern that the move would negatively impact the defense industrial base by leaving a gap between Block V and Block VI construction.
     “ ‘This gap could contribute to supplier instability and workforce shortfalls at a time when the industrial base should be simultaneously executing Columbia-class construction,’ the document stated. Columbia-class ballistic missile subs are slated to replace the legacy Ohio-class boats. They are the service’s top modernization priority.” (Ref. 8)

     With the arrival of the Coronavirus virus, the status of the 2021 defense budget becomes highly uncertain. The economy is now in free fall. Unemployment is rampant, businesses are shut down, and tax revenues have plummeted. On top of all that, government expenditures have skyrocketed, with serval bills worth trillions of dollars being passed to ease the economic disaster that is occurring. The federal deficit, which has been an ongoing problem for many years, is now poised to explode - and the end is not yet in sight. Couple all of this with the very distinct likelihood that Congress will not act on the defense budget as a result of their focus on the Coronavirus pandemic. If the 2021 defense budget presented problems before the arrival of the Coronavirus, its status has now become an enigma wrapped in an enigma.

     The Coronavirus has created threats to the 2021 defense budget and threatens America’s security. As more and more money is needed to fight the virus, Democrats look to the defense budget as a pot of money to pay for the fight against the pandemic and to buy voter support in the upcoming election at the expense of the nation’s security.

     “As America works to conquer the coronavirus outbreak and reopen an economy hobnailed by lockdown restrictions, left-leaning lawmakers are taking steps to ensure that the country is vulnerable to future disasters. [Emphasis mine]
     “Nearly 30 Democrats (including the Squad — Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley) are demanding that the House Armed Services Committee cut the defense budget.
      - - -
     “The coronavirus pandemic has roiled governments around the world. What it hasn’t done is destabilize terrorism. If anything, the pandemic has offered excellent opportunity for escalation.
     “ ‘Since the pandemic started, and weakened the capacity of law or security enforcement around the world, ISIS has persisted in operations across Afghanistan, West Africa, Central Africa, the Sahel, Egypt and Yemen,’ {the} director of the SITE Intelligence Group, told Time magazine. SITE tracks online networks affiliated with jihadist and white supremacist organizations. ISIS has ‘specifically exploited the pandemic with attacks in Iraq, the Maldives and the Philippines,’ she added, and aggressively publicized calls for attacks on the West.
      - - -
     “With ISIS making full use of pandemic chaos and calling for attacks on the West, how could this possibly be a good time to cut the defense budget? America needs to be safe from another 9/11, as well as COVID-19. The terrorists aren’t waiting for more coronavirus testing to roll out in the United States. [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     “The progressive agenda, as its proponents continue to reveal, has a skewed set of priorities. Free college and a universal income deserve funding. Financial support for the men and women who keep America safe at home and abroad? Start cutting.
     “The group’s move, however, is a sublime bit of election year virtue signaling.
     “Fighting the coronavirus and funding our military aren’t mutually exclusive concerns. America faces threats on many fronts simultaneously — from viruses and terrorists.
     “What we need are lawmakers who won’t cherry-pick which threat needs attention to suit their agenda.” (Ref. 9)

     It seems that not all threats to America's security come from foreign sources - sometimes the threat arises domestically.


  1. What Trump proposed in his 2021 budget, Brittany Renee Mayes, Jennifer Liberto and Damian Paletta, The Washington Post, 10 February 2020.
  2. Trump Proposes Flat Pentagon Budget, Yasmin Tadjdeh, National Defense Magazine,
    11 February 2020.
  3. Trump seeks to divert more Pentagon money to border wall construction, David S. Cloud,
    Los Angeles Times, 13 February 2020.
  4. Trump to transfer $3.8B from military to fund his wall, Andrew Taylor and Lolita C. Baldor, fourstateshomepage.com/, 13 February 2020.
  5. Our Elected Politicians Are Not Doing their Jobs, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 378, 27 September 2019.
  6. Congress Unlikely to Pass 2021 Budget on Time, Jon Harper, nationaldefensemagazine.org, 18 February 2020.
  7. Donald Trump's Defense Budget Is Not an Increase. Here Are All the Problems., Frederico Bartels, The National Interest, 11 February 2020.
  8. Congress Pushes Back on Virginia-Class Submarine Cut, Connie Lee, National Defense,
    April 2020.
  9. Dems want to cut defense budget amid ISIS threat, Boston Herald, Page 14, 21 May 2020.


  21 May 2020 {Article 414; Govt_82}    
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