At Senate hearing, Republicans spar with Pentagon leaders over size of $715 billion defense budget

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‘BARELY TREADING WATER’: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley faced a respectful but highly skeptical onslaught from key Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday as they sought to defend the Biden administration’s proposed $715 billion Pentagon budget.

“You have a hard job, especially coming here to defend a budget you probably don't like or didn't support internally, but you've got to do it now,” said Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, addressing Austin and Milley at one point.

But the charge was led by ranking Republican Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who in his opening statement lambasted the spending plan, which, while $11 billion more than this year's budget, when adjusted for inflation amounts to a half-a-percent cut.

“The administration gave us a budget that cut spending when we need real growth … It barely treads water,” Inhofe said. “This budget cuts ships, aircraft, munitions, and more. We have nearly $25 billion of unfunded priorities. These aren’t wish lists, these are risk lists.”

“The budget cuts aircraft procurement by 20%, backslides on Army readiness, and starves Navy shipbuilding,” he continued. “We have been asking our military to do too much with too little for too long.”

HARD CHOICES: Milley defended the decisions to divest $2.8 billion worth of older ships and aircraft, which are expensive to maintain, even in some cases where there was no immediate replacement coming online.

“It has to do with relevance and pivoting to the future,” said Milley, citing the “changing character of war” and the growing threat from China. “This is my sixth budget. In every single budget I've seen, we're always making hard choices,” he said. “But in my professional opinion, a $715 billion budget, as long as we are disciplined in its application and we adhere to the priorities that we've established, will provide for the defense of the United States.”

“The budget gives us the right mix of capabilities and the flexibility to be very effective in our efforts to deter China going forward and Russia or anyone else who would want to take us on,” said Austin. “I'm confident that this budget will allow us to match our resources to our strategy and our strategy to our policy.”

COMPARED TO CHINA: Sullivan came armed with charts showing that while China has consistently increased defense spending over the past decade by 6%-12%, the U.S. saw Pentagon budgets go down during the Obama years, and under Biden, it is essentially flat.

“The increases that you show on your chart, those are factually correct, but relative to the whole and in context, we're getting a lot of money,” responded Milley. “We'll get $715 billion if this is passed. That's a lot of money. That is 50% of the entire president's [discretionary] budget. That's one out of every two dollars in the discretionary spending of the federal government.”

“Even though [China] had significant increases lately, their budget this year is still less than one-third of ours,” pointed out independent Sen. Angus King of Maine. “They were showing significant growth from a much lower base.”

But Inhofe, who wrote an op-ed last month disputing what he called the “myth” that U.S. defense spending is higher than the next 10 countries combined, got Milley to confirm his assertion.

“DOD's analysis and the intelligence communities analysis of budgets for both Russia and China are classified,” said Milley. “In unclassified level, I would tell you that, combined, the Russian and Chinese budgets exceed our budgets if all the cards are put on the table.”

CHINA TESTS ‘CARRIER KILLER’ AFTER THREATENING US OVER TAIWAN CONTACTS

COMPARED TO TRUMP: Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine took issue with the argument that the Biden budget was a change in course from the Trump years.

“President Trump gave us a future year defense plan in February of 2020, and it called for a top-line of $721 billion for this year,” said Kaine. "While that sounds like $6 billion higher than the Biden budget, it’s not really when you consider Trump took $10 billion out of the Pentagon’s budget for ‘nonmilitary emergencies,’” Kaine argued.

“So my belief is this is a budget that was essentially identical to the budget that we would have seen under President Trump based upon the Trump numbers that were submitted to us over a year ago,” Kaine said. “And when those numbers were submitted to us, I didn't hear anyone on this committee complain President Trump didn't have a high enough top-line.”

Good Friday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Victor I. Nava. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at DailyonDefense.com. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.

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HAPPENING TODAY: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg holds a pre-summit press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels at 10 a.m. EDT (3 p.m. CET). Stoltenberg will preview the issues to be discussed at Monday’s summit for heads of state and governments that will be attended by U.S. President Joe Biden. Streamed live at nato.int.

Yesterday, Stoltenberg spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and according to a NATO statement, the two leaders discussed “the security situation in and around Ukraine and Russia’s unacceptable military build-up.”

Stoltenberg “reaffirmed NATO’s full support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to the statement, and “stressed that NATO will continue to provide significant political and practical support to Ukraine.”

EXCLUSIVE: ‘UKRAINE EXISTS IN A SECURITY VOID’: In an exclusive sit-down interview with the Washington Examiner’s Abraham Mahshie, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed his country’s urgent short-term need for U.S. weaponry and long-term hopes to join NATO.

“Ukraine exists in a security void. We are not members of NATO,” said Kuleba in his Kyiv office. “If the United States [is] interested in advancing [its] interests in this part of the world, in supporting a big democracy in this part of the world, we believe if the United States is interested in containing Russia from further aggressive actions, then the issue of Ukraine security becomes imminent.”

Kuleba called his recent discussions with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken “very focused and very friendly” and says he gave Blinken a wish list of five weapons systems they would like from the U.S. as soon as possible.

“Ukraine needs to strengthen our defense, specifically when it comes to air defense and navy. These are the two weakest points of Ukrainian defense system. To the contrary, Russia is particularly strong in those fields.”

READ MORE: UKRAINE’S FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES VITAL US ASSISTANCE IN THE PROXY WAR WITH RUSSIA

OUT AHEAD OF HIS SKIS: It would appear that acting Navy Secretary Thomas Hawker may have overstepped his caretaker status when he suggested in a June 4 memo that the Navy consider defunding its submarine-launched nuclear-tipped cruise missile program in the 2023 budget cycle.

“I find it very concerning that an acting service secretary who hasn't been confirmed by the Senate is making a decision like this outside of any review process, without analysis or input from OSD policy, from nuclear matters, the Joint Chiefs, or STRATCOM, and without talking to other agencies or having, it seems, any discussions with our allies,” said Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer.

The move, which comes before the Pentagon has completed its Nuclear Posture Review, infuriated members of Congress and blindsided both Austin and Milley, as was obvious from their responses when questioned about it during yesterday's Armed Services Committee hearing.

“I am not familiar with the memo, nor was I consulted. But as soon as we're done here, I'll go find that memo and get consulted,” said Milley.

“I've not seen the memo, and like the chairman, I will see it very shortly after this hearing,” added Austin, who promised no decision on the program would be made until after the Nuclear Posture Review is completed.

GILLIBRAND LOSING HER FIGHT: Yesterday’s testimony also seemed to spell the end of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s effort to move prosecutions for all major felonies out of the military chain of command.

Despite having a filibuster-proof number of Senate co-sponsors, fellow Democrat Jack Reed is keeping her bill bottled up in committee because he favors a more limited change in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that would remove the authority only for cases involving sexual assault or harassment.

Neither Austin nor Milley committed to Gillibrand’s stand-alone bill, and both expressed doubts about a sweeping rewrite of the UCMJ. “I want to be sure that whatever changes to the UCMJ that I recommend to the president, and ultimately to this committee, that they are scoped to the problem that we are trying to solve,” said Austin, referring to sexual assault.

“I am very, very open to significant change in the area of sexual assault, sexual harassment,” said Milley. “But I think … it needs a lot of due diligence before we bundle all the one-year felonies and take them away from the commanders.”

239 A-10s ARE ENOUGH: With Arizona Sen. Martha McSally gone, it has fallen to her replacement, former astronaut and test pilot Mark Kelly, to take up the fight for the venerable A-10 “Warthog,” the much loved close air support platform revered by ground troops.

“The A-10 has saved the lives of many men and women because of its unique capabilities. Everyone I speak to, everyone, who has had experience with the A-10 in combat wants that to be the plane that shows up when they are in trouble,” said Kelly yesterday, decrying the decision to retire 42 older A-10s which first entered service in 1977.

“I do not see another airframe in our inventory, not the F-16, not the F-35, that can do the mission like the A-10 can when you combine the fact that it is far superior in that role and protects troops on the ground when they need it the most,” Kelly said.

“Personally, I'm a big fan of the A-10,” replied Milley. “However, we're talking about 42 aircraft, we're still going to have 239, we've got enough for five squadrons.”

“We've got to recognize and begin to shift toward a future operating environment and the changing character of war,” he said. “This is a modest decrease in the number of A-10s, I think it is acceptable risk, and I support the Air Force's recommendation.”

NOMINEES ADVANCE: The Senate Armed Services Committee voted by voice Thursday to favorably report out the following nominations:

  • Frank Kendall to be Secretary of the Air Force

  • Heidi Shyu to be undersecretary of defense for research and engineering

  • Susanna Blume to be director of cost assessment and program evaluation, Department of Defense

  • Jill Hruby to be undersecretary of energy for nuclear security and administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration

  • Frank Rose to be principal deputy administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration

  • Deborah Rosenblum to be assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs

  • Christopher Maier to be assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict

The nominations were immediately reported to the floor following the committee’s action.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Ukraine’s foreign minister discusses vital US assistance in the proxy war with Russia

Washington Examiner: China tests ‘carrier killer’ after threatening US over Taiwan contacts

Washington Examiner: Defender exercises strengthen southeastern Europe’s deterrence with Russia

Washington Examiner: FBI Director Wray says Capitol riot cannot compare to 'horror' of 9/11

Washington Examiner: Biden officials say worsening border stats ‘overstate’ problem because of repeat crossers

Defense One: If China Is The No. 1 Threat, Why Doesn’t The 2022 Budget Reflect It?

Foreign Affairs: America Is Not Ready for a War With China

Breaking Defense: The Five Surprises In Pentagon’s 2022 Budget

Military Times: Senator, SECDEF go head-to-head on so-called ‘woke’ military

New York Times: Diversity Push Inside Military Spurs Backlash

Washington Post: Russia is preparing to supply Iran with an advanced satellite system that will boost Tehran’s ability to surveil military targets, officials say

AP: Russia Spars With EU And U.S. At Meeting On EU-UN Cooperation

USNI News: Iranian Warship Could Be Bringing Millions of Gallons of Fuel to Venezuela

Air Force Magazine: F-35 Production Will Take Longer than Expected to Recover from COVID

Military.com: There Will Be 450 F-35s In Europe By 2030, NATO Commander Says

New York Times: Eighty Years Later, U.S. and Britain Revise Atlantic Charter for New Era

Yonhap: N. Korean Missiles Pose Increasing Threat To U.S., Allies: Secretary Austin

Washington Post: Kim Jong Un appears to have lost some weight — and that could have geopolitical consequences

Military.com: Volunteer Testing Begins in Marines' Groundbreaking Body Composition Study

Washington Post: France To End Major Military Operation In West Africa

CQ Roll Call: Pentagon Renews Effort To Withhold More Unclassified Records

Calendar

FRIDAY | JUNE 11

9 a.m. — President Joe Biden attends the G-7 summit in Cornwall, U.K., and takes part in bilateral meetings with fellow G-7 leaders.

10 a.m. Brussels — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg holds a press briefing to preview Monday’s summit meeting of leaders of NATO nations. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news

11 a.m. — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations hearing: “FY22 Defense Intelligence Enterprise Posture Hearing,” with David Taylor, performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security; Gen. Paul Nakasone, director, National Security Agency; and Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director Defense Intelligence Agency. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

SUNDAY | JUNE 13

TBA — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden meet with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, before departing for Brussels, Belgium.

MONDAY | JUNE 14

All Day — President Joe Biden participates in the NATO Summit and a separate U.S.–EU Summit.

TUESDAY | JUNE 15

9:30 a.m. G50 Dirksen — Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: “Posture of the Department of the Army in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2022 and the Future Years Defense Program,” with Army Secretary Christine Wormuth; and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville. https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings

11 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee hearing: “Department of the Navy Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request,” with Thomas Harker, acting Navy secretary; Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations; Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

1:30 p.m. — Project 2049 Institute virtual conference: “Near and Present Danger: U.S.-China Strategic Competition in the Western Hemisphere,” with Adm. Craig Faller, commander, U.S. Southern Command; Rebecca Chavez, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for western hemisphere affairs; and Yuko Mukai, The Yomiuri Shimbun. https://project2049.net/event/near-and-present-danger

2:30 p.m. 232A Russell — Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland hearing: “Army Modernization in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2022,” with Lt. Gen. Erik Peterson, deputy chief of staff, Army G-8; Gen. John Murray, commanding general, Army Futures Command; and Douglas Bush, acting assistant secretary of the army for acquisition, logistics and technology. https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings

3 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing: “FY22 Budget Request for Missile Defense and Missile Defeat Programs,” with Leonor Tomero, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy; Gen. Glen D. VanHerk, commander, U.S. Northern Command; Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director, Missile Defense Agency; Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command; and Lt. Gen. John Shaw, deputy commander, U.S. Space Command. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

WEDNESDAY | JUNE 16

TBA — In Geneva, Switzerland President Joe Biden will meet face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since assuming office.

4:30 p.m. 222 Russell — Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: “United States nuclear deterrence policy and strategy, Sharon Weiner, associate professor at the school of international service american university; Matthew Kroeing, professor of government and foreign service Georgetown University; Lisa Gordon Hagerty, former administrator National Nuclear Security Administration; Madelyn Creedon, nonresident senior fellow on foreign policy Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology, Brookings Institute; Tom Collina, director of policy Ploughshares Fund. https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings

THURSDAY | JUNE 17

10 a.m. 106 Dirksen — Senate Appropriations Committee hearing: “A Review of the FY 2022 Department of Defense Budget Request.” https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings

MONDAY | JUNE 21

1 p.m. — Defense One Tech Summit, with Gen. John Murray, commanding general, Army Futures Command; Kerri Dugan, director of the Biological Technologies Office, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; and Kayvon Modjarrad, M.D., director of Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research https://d1techsummit.com

TUESDAY | JUNE 22

1 p.m. — Defense One Tech Summit, with Brian Weeden, director of program planning, Secure World Foundation; and Derek Tournear, director, Space Development Agency. https://d1techsummit.com

WEDNESDAY | JUNE 23

1 p.m. — Defense One Tech Summit, with Rob Joyce, director of the Cybersecurity Directorate, National Security Agency; Maj. Steven Harvey, director of partnerships and technology, Marine Corps Installation Next; Randy Clark, Business Development and Strategic Planning for DOD and Public Safety, Verizon Business Group; and Lt. Col. Brandon Newell, director of technology and partnerships, Marine Corps Installation Next. https://d1techsummit.com

THURSDAY | JUNE 24

1 p.m. — Defense One Tech Summit, with Mieke Eoyang, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy; and Chris Lynch, CEO and co-founder, Rebellion Defense. https://d1techsummit.com

FRIDAY | JUNE 25

1 p.m. — Defense One Tech Summit, with Tim Grayson, director, Strategic Technology Office, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; and Lisa Sanders, director of science and technology for special operations forces, acquisition, technology and logistics, U.S. Special Operations Command. https://d1techsummit.com


QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Paragraph one of every operations order I've ever seen for 41 consecutive years says ‘enemy situation to include weather and terrain.’ We always consider weather. And climate change is weather at the strategic level.”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, in Senate testimony Thursday, arguing climate change is real and has a military impact.

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Original Author: Jamie McIntyre

Original Location: At Senate hearing, Republicans spar with Pentagon leaders over size of $715 billion defense budget

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