On Friday, the Pentagon released its $715 billion budget request for the 2022 fiscal year, part of the $752.9 billion Biden is requesting for so-called “national defense.” The budget emphasizes research for new weapons technology, which the US sees as vital for competition with China and Russia.
In a statement on the budget, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin named China as the Pentagon’s primary focus. “The budget provides us the mix of capabilities we need most and stays true to our focus on the pacing challenge from the People’s Republic of China,” he said.
The budget request asked for over $112 billion for research, development, testing, and evaluation, known as RDT&E. It is about a 5 percent increase from the 2021 budget and is the highest-ever request for RDT&E.
US military officials frequently say that investment in technology like artificial intelligence, robotics, space and cyber capabilities, and hypersonic missiles are needed to compete with Beijing in the coming years. Space Force’s top scientist recently said human augmentation to create super-soldiers should be embraced by the US.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley explained to lawmakers on Thursday why the Pentagon was focused on research. “We are trying right now to put down payments on investments that are going to pay huge dividends five, 10, 15 years from now for a future force that will be able to compete successfully with any adversary out there, to include China,” he said, according to Stars & Stripes.
Milley warned that China seeks an equal footing with the US military. “They are not our peer or our near-peer just yet, but they are rapidly growing and their objective is by probably the mid-2030s, for sure by the mid-century, to be equal to or greater than the United States military,” he said.
The budget request includes $5.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), a plan to increase US military capabilities near China’s coast. US Indo-Pacific command is hoping for an additional $27 billion over the next five years. Part of the plan is to place a network of long-range missiles along the First Island Chain, which stretches from southern Japan down to Indonesia.
According to Defense News, the PDI funding covers investment in Tomahawk and Standard Missile 6 missiles, which exceed the 500 km limit of the defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that the Trump administration withdrew from.
While Biden’s request would be the highest military budget of all time, it’s not enough for Republican hawks in Congress. Republicans have been calling for a three to five percent increase to reflect inflation. The Trump administration’s projected Pentagon budget for 2022 was around $722 billion.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and his House counterpart, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AK), released a statement slamming Biden’s proposal. “President Biden’s defense budget request is wholly inadequate,” the lawmakers said. “A budget like this sends China and our other potential adversaries a bad signal — that we’re not willing to do what it takes to defend ourselves and our allies and partners.”
The US Army is the only military branch that is taking cuts in funding, although the Air Force and Navy are also reducing personnel. Space Force is on track to grow more than any other branch, another sign of the US emphasis on new weapons and technology.