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Research Report

Making Sense of Cents: Parsing the U.S. Department of Defense’s FY 2022 Budget Request

Stacie L. Pettyjohn
Becca Wasser
Copyright Date: May. 1, 2021
Pages: 21

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 2-2)
  2. (pp. 3-3)
  3. (pp. 4-5)
  4. (pp. 6-6)

    A newly elected government has a clear opportunity to revise the national strategy, including its defense priorities, and to realign resources to support its new approach. Annually, the U.S. president submits a budget request and the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), a defense plan outlining projected manpower, funding, and programs for the next five years, to Congress by early February.¹ An incoming president typically makes minor adjustments² to the annual budget request developed by his predecessor and submits a detailed budget in the spring.³ The Trump administration’s obstruction during the transition significantly hampered the Biden administration’s efforts to prepare a...

  5. (pp. 7-7)

    The only detailed figure included in the skinny defense budget request was the topline of $715 billion—the total amount of discretionary resources—that the president is requesting for the Department of Defense. This figure is higher than former President Donald Trump’s $705 billion FY21 budget request. However, when adjusted for inflation, it amounts to a flat defense budget—even amid major force modernization efforts.⁶ Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have expressed dissatisfaction with this outcome. A group of progressive Democrats called on the president to “significantly” cut defense spending, while Republicans urged the president to increase the Pentagon’s...

  6. (pp. 8-15)

    The FY22 defense budget request identifies a number of planned activities and areas of emphasis, but it does not specify how much money will be allocated toward each area. Nevertheless, the majority of the issues, including the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI); long-range fires; naval shipbuilding; research and development for technological innovation and readiness; and nuclear modernization, are critical for countering China’s military rise in the Indo-Pacific and bolstering strategic stability.

    The Biden administration’s request affirmed that China remains the dominant challenge and that there are plans to leverage the PDI to bolster conventional deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region.14 Similar to...

  7. (pp. 15-16)

    Most of the areas identified in President Biden’s defense budget request were also Trump administration priorities and are linked to competition with China. The FY22 defense budget elevates one major mission that is a departure from the Trump administration’s policies—countering transnational threats and, in particular, the dangers posed by climate change and biothreats. President Biden appears to be following through on his campaign pledge to make the U.S. military more resilient against natural disasters caused by climate change and to make the department more energy efficient.65 This could involve boosting the military construction budget to enhance the resiliency of...

  8. (pp. 16-21)

    Because the defense budget is not going to grow in real terms, the department needs to realign resources to support all of the priorities identified here—and to support its broader effort of competing with China. Toward that end, the FY22 request announces its plan to divest of legacy systems and programs because many of these forces are costly to maintain and not capable enough for great-power competition. But questions remain over what constitutes a legacy platform. More importantly, members of Congress have previously thwarted DoD and the services’ attempts to retire aging weapons systems or ones that are not...