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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

The U.S. Military Has a New Enemy Tougher Than Russia, China, Iran or North Korea

U.S. Military Budget
An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron prepares to launch during Red Flag 20-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 3, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

(And that enemy is…a lack of funding…)

When the Office of Management and Budget released its 2022 budget request, President Joe Biden stated, “Where we choose to invest speaks to what we value as a Nation.”

On that basis, the Biden administration does not value the United States armed forces.

Biden’s budget reflects more interest in an unprecedented expansion of the federal government than adequately funding the military. Priced at a whopping $6.4 trillion, this budget request, adjusted for inflation, costs more than World War II and one decade of Obamacare combined.

Further, as highlighted by American Enterprise Institute’s Elaine McCusker, the Biden administration’s lack of interest in defense is apparent in the absence of discussion of investing in any military capabilities in the May 28 White House budget release.

If enacted as is, the Department of Education would have a 41% budget increase, the Environmental Protection Agency would have a 22% increase, and the Department of Defense would have a paltry 1.6% increase—less than the expected 2.2% inflation rate.

As stated by previous defense leaders, the U.S. needs a consistent 3% to 5% above-inflation defense budget increase for several years to be ready for great power competition.

By shrinking the defense budget’s purchasing power, the Pentagon was forced to make painful tradeoffs.

For instance, the Navy was forced to back out on a contract for a destroyer and settle for a fleet of around 300 ships. The Heritage Foundation’s 2021 Index of U.S. Military Strength calls for a fleet of at least 400. Further, Congress has made a 355 Navy fleet U.S. law.

Heritage’s Tom Spoehr wrote about how the Army also took quite a beating in Biden’s budget request. The budget proposes a severe cut in Army training, where brigade, combat-level training would drop 30% and combat training center rotations would drop from 26% to 17%. These cuts severely compromise readiness levels.

Increasing health care costs punishes the Pentagon’s budget. To account for these costs, which are on par with the rest of the country’s health care systems, the Defense Health Program must increase its budget by 5%, consuming a total of $54 billion or 7.6% of the total budget.

Further moving away from its mission of “providing the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation’s security,” Biden’s budget proposes to carve out $500 million to go toward pandemic preparedness and $617 million to address, prepare, and adapt to climate change.

This is partially how the Biden administration is attempting to redefine the meaning of national security.

Biden even told U.S. troops during his trip to the United Kingdom that the Joint Chiefs of Staff told him that climate change was the number one security threat facing America. The troops stationed abroad must have wondered what they were doing overseas if the biggest threat to America is climate change.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley clarified just one day later that “from a strictly military standpoint,” China and Russia are the greatest national security threats.

The Pentagon’s budget aligns more with the threats Milley describes rather than those in Biden’s vision, but Congress must keep an eagle eye out for further moves to divert defense funding to non-defense missions.

Congress should act to keep the Defense Department focused on the security threats facing the nation and defer climate wars to better-suited agencies.

National defense may not be Biden’s immediate priority, but it must be an enduring interest for the nation.

Frederico Bartels is a policy analyst for defense budgeting at The Heritage Foundation’s Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy.

Written By

Frederico Bartels is a senior policy analyst for defense budgeting in Heritage's Center for National Defense. In this position, he conducts research, writes and engages audiences on the adequacy, composition, and character of the U.S. defense budget and associated policies and supports the Center’s mission to promote a strong U.S national defense.