Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are sparring over the merits of President Biden’s $813.3 billion defense budget, one of the largest investments in the Pentagon and security ever proposed.
Republicans are largely united in their calls to invest even more in defense as the threat from China grows, the U.S. works to back Ukraine and other allies against Russia and inflation climbs.
Democrats, on the other hand, are split. Liberals are decrying a Democratic president seeking to pump more money into the Pentagon, which has already seen its budget swell over the years. But centrist Democrats, eyeing a difficult midterm election when their party is on its back foot, want to be seen as backing U.S. defense, leading experts to predict Biden’s proposal is merely a floor for what the Pentagon could get.
“I think it is a sound step, toward a very necessary investment in our national security,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who is running for re-election this year.
“After the assistance that we provide to Ukraine and our NATO allies, we need to replenish our own stocks and supplies of NATO partners who have provided aid and we need to recognize the world as it is increasingly dangerous and risk-filled,” he continued.
Biden’s proposal for $813.3 billion in defense spending represents a 4 percent increase above the $782 billion in defense spending that was enacted fiscal year 2022.
One issue that quickly emerged is how inflation will impact the increases Biden is proposing, particularly the Department of Defense budget, which makes up most of the overall national defense budget.
The president is proposing $773 billion for the Pentagon, 4.1 percent more than the $742.3 billion that was enacted for the agency in fiscal year 2022. The rest of the funding would go to defense-adjacent programs in other areas of the federal government like the National Nuclear Security Administration in the Department of Energy.
Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord told reporters on Monday that when accounting for inflation, the request represents 1.5 percent of real growth over what was enacted.
“It’s ignorant to believe these historically high inflation rates aren’t hurting our service members just like they are every other American family,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the top Armed Services Republicans in Congress, said in a statement.
“Beyond that, inflation is also driving up key military needs like fuel, as well as the cost of labor and supplies — but this budget doesn’t appear to address that reality,” they continued.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that the proposal does take into account “the real cost of inflation for our military” by adding additional funding to support the agency’s purchasing power.