Biden’s Pentagon Budget Dangerously ‘Shortchanges’ Commander’s Requests to Deter China

ANALYSIS – While the war in Ukraine is a key battleground at the moment, none of us should lose sight of the fact that China is the nation’s primary geopolitical and military threat now, and for the next few decades. In fact, Russia’s invasion has highlighted the Chinese military threat to an independent Taiwan.

Sadly, despite the Pentagon’s various statements, they aren’t putting their money where their mouth is.

According to an unclassified fact sheet about the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy that was released in March — though, Russia, North Korea, Iran are mentioned — China is declared the Defense Department’s primary threat concern.

It identifies Beijing as “our most consequential strategic competitor and the pacing challenge for the department.”

And while the language is Biden ‘bureaucratese’ for China being our number one military and political threat, that is exactly what it is.

So why doesn’t Biden’s defense budget reflect this grave concern?

Instead, the Biden Pentagon’s 2023 budget request for the region appears much lower than Indo-Pacific Command [INDOPACOM] officials said they needed in a March 2022 report to Congress.

Defense One reports that:

Last year, Congress directed Indo-Pacific Command to conduct an independent analysis of its funding requirements for 2023. In the “Seize the Initiative” report, officials said they need nearly $9.1 billion for 2023, and almost $67 billion between 2024 and 2027, according to an unclassified copy of the report shared with Defense One.

The Pentagon’s proposed Pacific Deterrence Initiative funding for 2023, however, is only $6.1 billion, according to an April 2022 comptroller document shared with Defense One

“We’ve seen this for a couple years, where DOD seems to be adjusting what INDOPACOM has identified as its requirements and ultimately we defer to the commanders on the ground,” a congressional staffer said. “We have members who are saying, for appropriations this year, we need to give INDOPACOM everything it’s asking for.”

Defense One adds:

…the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and Indo-Pacific Command’s report include similar tables that break down funding priorities in the region but have drastically different numbers. 

For example, Indo-Pacific Command asked for $7.1 billion in 2023 to “modernize and strengthen presence” in the region. That same line item for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative for a “modernized and strengthened presence” is just $1.8 billion. Under a budget line to “improve capabilities available to USINDOPACOM,” the combatant command asks for $110 million, while the Pacific Deterrence Initiative requests just $25 million. 

Well, more than a dozen lawmakers are asking why, and asking leaders of the House Appropriations Committee to boost funding for INDOPACOM to reflect the real threat from China, and meet the Commander’s request.

In a letter, obtained by Defense One, and signed by 10 Republicans and five Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee, including Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio; Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.; and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., the lawmakers wrote that:

“Admiral [John] Aquilino [INDOPACOM Commander] clearly outlined to Congress what he needs to deter [Chinese Community Party] aggression in the Indo-Pacific, and any attempt to shortchange his request will not only undermine our ability to defend Taiwan, but will also be met with strong, bipartisan opposition in Congress.” 

“The crisis in Ukraine underscores the need to act with urgency when it comes to defending Taiwan,” said Rep. Michael Gallagher, R-Wisc., who led the letter.

Indeed, we should be giving INDOPACOM everything it needs, and more. China should be our number one defense priority. ADN

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank. - - PAULCRESPO.COM

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments