WASHINGTON, May 23, 2017 — The president’s fiscal year 2018 defense budget request furthers the administration’s strategy to “get ready, get balanced and get bigger and more lethal,” DoD budgeteers told reporters at the Pentagon today.
John P. Roth, performing duties as the DoD comptroller, and Army Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, the Joint Staff’s director of force structure, resources and assessment, discussed the fiscal 2018 request, which is pegged at $639.1 billion, spoke during a news briefing.
“The intent is for the fiscal ’18 budget request to be the next step in rebuilding the U.S. armed forces,” Roth said. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has stressed the three-step process in rebuilding the military that the administration adopted. “Our request in fiscal ’17 for more resources, culminating in the fiscal ’17 appropriations act, was intended to address near-term readiness,” Roth said. “The department is already applying those funds to “get ready.”
Balancing Current Operations, Future Needs
The 2018 request will build on that readiness and help balance the force between current operations and future needs. “Our goal in fiscal 2019 is to sustain the gains we hopefully will make in fiscal ’17 and fiscal ’18, and, by that time informed by the new National Defense Strategy, we will build further to create a bigger, more lethal force,” he said. The base budget request is $574.5 billion, and overseas contingency operations are pegged at $64.6 billion. The base budget exceeds the Budget Control Act of 2011 cap by $52 billion. “It is absolutely essential for us — in order to achieve the goals and meet the strategy, we must increase the defense budget cap. We have to reverse defense sequestration in order to protect U.S. national security,” Roth emphasized.
Since the Budget Control Act was enacted, the world has become much more unpredictable and dangerous, he said. Since 2011, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria swept across the Middle East, a revanchist Russia is causing problems in Europe and the Middle East, and China is rising and attempting to extend its sphere of influence. In that same period of time, the Budget Control Act cut funds to the military, making it “smaller. “Readiness has eroded, and readiness has been deferred,” Roth said. “That’s not a good place to be.”
Significant Investment in Preparedness
Rebuilding readiness is the key to the military moving forward, Ierardi said.
“The ’18 budget puts significant investment in the aspect of unit preparedness,” the general told reporters. “[This involves] training, maintenance and modernization to restore warfighting readiness while setting the conditions for future sustained comprehensive readiness.”
The military had been taking money from modernization accounts and applying it to units that were deploying, the general said. The fiscal 2018 budget request “allows us to fill those holes and allow us to recover full-spectrum readiness – readiness to operate in different theaters, against different adversaries in different periods of time,” Ierardi said.
The budget request calls for another round of base closures and realignments in 2021. “In order to get a round done in 2021, you have to begin analysis and the process now,” Roth explained.
The last round of BRAC was in 2005, and the closure process saves DoD $12 billion a year, he said. “That is a gift that keeps giving,” he added.
The department is asking for the authority to launch a study on BRAC now, as current legislation forbids the department from even studying the process. Previous studies said DoD had 20 percent more posts, bases and installations than it needed, Roth noted. “If that is even close to correct, we could save roughly $2 billion a year that we could invest in readiness and modernization,” he said.
The total requested for overseas contingency operations in fiscal 2018 is $64.6 billion. Roth said plans are under discussion that may raise that level and that the administration will go to Congress with a request for more money if needed.
Future-year defense spending is under review, Roth said. Mattis will base any future-year budget decisions on the National Defense Strategy, which has not yet begun, DoD officials said.