Biden Unveils ‘Skinny Budget’ Offering Blueprint for Spending Priorities; $715B for Pentagon
President Biden on Friday released his first blueprint for discretionary spending, a precursor to the annual budget known as the "skinny budget." The document sheds light on how the new president plans to prioritize federal spending after four years of a Republican administration. The $1.5 trillion discretionary funding request looks to end the tradition of “parity” between defense and non-defense spending by boosting non-defense spending by 16%.
President Joe Biden plans to request $715 billion for his first Pentagon budget, a decrease from Trump-era spending trends. The $715 billion Pentagon “top-line” is likely to be presented as a compromise to Democrats pressing for cuts in defense spending, as some funds would be slated for the Pentagon’s environmental initiatives. The Pentagon-only budget doesn’t include defense-related spending that goes to other agencies, such as to the Department of Energy, which maintains the nation’s nuclear weapons.
In a change from previous administrations, Biden will also forgo labeling funding for current military operations as “overseas contingency operations,” or OCO, according to one official. Lawmakers from both parties have criticized OCO as a “slush fund” of money that should be spent as part of the regular Pentagon budget.
In the request, the Biden Administration specifically cites the need to “optimize. U.S. naval shipbuilding” saying, “Maintaining U.S. naval power is critical to reassuring allies and signaling U.S. resolve to potential adversaries. The discretionary request proposes executable and responsible investments in the U.S. Navy fleet. In addition, the discretionary request continues the recapitalization of the Nation’s strategic ballistic missile submarine fleet, and invests in remotely operated and autonomous systems and the next generation attack submarine program.”
Additionally the request highlights the need to “divest legacy capacity and force structure” saying, “The discretionary request supports DOD’s plan to divest legacy systems and programs to redirect resources from low- to high-priority programs, platforms, and systems. Some legacy force structure is too costly to maintain and operate, and no longer provides the capabilities needed to address national security challenges. The discretionary request enables DOD to reinvest savings associated with divestitures and other efficiencies to higher priority investments.”
The request doesn't indicate whether the Biden administration will stick with the Trump administration's plan to increase the size of the Navy to more than 500 manned and unmanned ships by 2045. The service had run into funding obstacles to achieve its previous goal of 355 ships set near the end of the Obama administration.
Pentagon officials have indicated they plan to study the Trump shipbuilding goal, unveiled near the end of the last administration. The detailed president’s budget request will be released at an unknown later date.