Work: Congress Must Fully Enact DoD 2016 Budget to Meet Strategic Goals

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

SAN DIEGO — In the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2016 request, the department proposed more than $35 billion above sequestration budget caps in base funding. Congress will have to enact that number if it wants the military to meet its strategic goals, Robert O. Work, deputy secretary of defense, said Feb. 10.

“Sequestration is a blunder that allows our fiscal problems, not our security needs, to drive our strategy,” Work said during a keynote speech at the AFCEA West 2015 conference. “The budget we are submitting supports the national defense strategy. We think the national defense strategy is the right one for our nation. We would not submit a budget that would nullify it.”

The military faces numerous new demands including threats from the Islamic State, ongoing Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and Ebola in Western Africa. Those threats — coupled with ongoing ones from Iran, China and North Korea — demand resources, he said.

From fiscal year 2016 through 2020, the Defense Department will request more than $150 billion above Budget Control Act caps, he noted. 

“Even though we are about $150 billion above sequestration caps in our request, maintaining the balance between personnel, readiness and modernization is extremely challenging,” Work said.

“That’s why we believe firmly that any reduction in funding below the president’s budget level or any broad denial of a request we have put into our budget to Congress is really going to cause some problems and would make the overall risks to the current strategy that we have … unmanageable.”

Work lamented that Congress has frequently gone against the wishes of the Defense Department. For example, it has continued to fund the A-10 Warthog. Additionally, it has rejected calls for Base Realignment and Closure hearings even though force structure has — and continues to be — pared back. Closing some bases could save $2 billion a year, he said.

“Maintaining outdated and duplicative systems and unwanted infrastructure drains scarce resources that should go elsewhere into the programs. It’s wasteful. It’s strategically unsound,” he said. 
It also makes an impact on readiness, which has already been adversely affected by sequestration, Work said. 

“Even if Congress gets rid of sequestration and gives us the full president’s budget level, it’s going to take until 2020 for the Army, Marines and Navy to get back to full spectrum combat readiness,” Work said. “It’s going to take the Air Force until 2023.”

The Defense Department is trying to stretch every dollar it receives, Work said. As part of the department’s third offset strategy, it is working to maintain its technological edge as adversaries challenge it, he said.

“Without question, the tremendous margin of technological superiority that the United States has typically enjoyed since the beginning of World War II is eroding… at what we consider an accelerating pace,” Work said.

The first offset strategy started after World War II during the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. The next began in 1975 after the United States began investing in guided munitions, surveillance and stealth technology against the Soviet Union, he noted.

The third offset strategy will be more difficult than the first two iterations because the United States only had one foe to focus on. “Now we have to consider advanced states like Russia and China.We have to consider regional states like Iran and North Korea. We have to consider non-state actors with advanced capabilities,” Work said.

“Now with the pace of change and commercial technology changing so often, the third offset strategies will have a far more challenging temporal component in the competition,” Work said.

The Defense Department is focusing on five-year defense plans, he said. It wants to see what it can do with the equipment it already has and how new capabilities can be added. It is also looking to the future to see what science and technology investments need to be made.

One example of increasing capability on existing platforms includes using the Block 4 Tomahawk land attack missile as an anti-ship missile, Work said. 

In January, the USS Kidd, a guided missile destroyer, launched a Tomahawk missile that was able to change course mid-flight and hit a moving ship after being cued by an aircraft, he said.

“This is a potential game changing capability for not a lot of cost,” Work said. “It’s a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile. It could be used for practically our entire surface and submarine fleet.”

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget

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