Defense IT

2016 Defense budget calls for a big, but unlikely, boost in spending

President Barack Obama’s $585.3 billion proposed 2016 Defense budget billions of dollars for technology-focused initiatives intended to modernize military systems, while maintaining its research and development efforts.

The total request, however, which includes Defense Department base operations and funds for overseas operations, is $29.9 billion more than what was enacted for 2015 and well over the $499 billion cap Congress had imposed as part of sequestration. Like the president’s overall $4 trillion federal budget, it’s bound to meet resistance on Capitol Hill.

For now, at least, the budget includes stepped-up unmanned aerial systems missions, a 1.3 percent pay increase and funds to support outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s tech-centric Defense Innovation Initiative, as part of a $12.3 billion request for science and technology spending (up slightly from $12.2 in 2015). The Pentagon’s primary research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, would see its budget tick upward from $2.9 billion to $3 billion.

The budget does account for a shrinking military force, projecting the Army’s troop level to dip by 15,000 to a force of 475,000, Stars & Stripes reported. And although the budget does include that modest pay hike, it cuts back in other areas, with service members required to cover 4 percent more of their housing. Commissary subsidies also would drop slightly, from $1.3 billion to $1.2 billion.

Two areas DOD is looking to spend on are cyber operations and UAS missions. The U.S. Cyber Command and the service’s component commands are in the process of adding cyber operators, a process expected to continue into 2016.

And the Pentagon is looking to increase the number of unmanned Combat Air Patrols. CAPs, used widely in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, involve groups of MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1 Predator UAS operating around the clock, under control of a rotating team of pilots. But the Air Force has been having trouble recruiting UAS pilots, and has said it may not have enough to meet the demand. The proposed 2016 budget calls for adding 400 Reaper pilots and increasing the number of Reaper missions from 55 to 60, while maintaining five CAPs for the older Predator, Air Force Times reported.

The budget in part is an attempt to counter the effects of sequestration, which adds to the pending battle with Congress. Because the budget exceeds the $499 billion cap mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, it would trigger across-the-board sequestration cuts, unless Congress decides to remove the cap.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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