The Defense Department submitted unfunded priorities lists from the services and combatant commanders that total about $36.3 billion to help mitigate the effects of across-the-board cuts and then spending caps since sequestration went into effect in fiscal year 2013.

The president’s budget request for FY ’15 stuck to the congressionally mandated spending caps, though the Obama administration also proposed an Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative (OGSI) that requests $58 billion for discretionary spending above the sequester caps in both defense and domestic spending accounts in exchange for reductions in mandatory spending and closing some tax loopholes. The unfunded priorities list, submitted to Congress on April 1, includes the $26 billion in defense spending included in the OGSI request, along with about $10 billion more.

The Army asked for $10.6 billion, which includes $197 million to buy 180 Guided MLRS rockets; $1.4 billion to procure 23 remanufactured AH-64 Apache helicopters, buy 28 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and add two CH-47F Chinooks to the Army’s multiyear contract with Boeing [BA]; among other modernization and readiness needs.

The Navy asked for just over $10 billion in a request that did not include funding to get started on the refueling and complex overhaul for the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73)–“this unfunded transcends FY 2015….Thus, the decision to refuel or inactivate CVN-73 is dependent upon the fiscal outlook in FY 2016 and beyond, and whether we will be forced to return to sequestration levels,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert wrote in his letter to McKeon accompanying his request.

The Marine Corps' short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B performs a vertical landing. Photo: Lockheed Martin.
The F-35 was a popular item in the unfunded priorities list submitted to Congress on April 1. The Marines would buy six and the Air Force would buy two if additional money was added to the defense budget, the service chiefs wrote. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

The Navy asked for funds to purchase 22 additional EA-18G Growlers to “enhance Navy’s ability to support the Joint Tactical Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) capability. Ongoing analysis by DoD and the [Department of Navy] indicate a larger squadron size is needed to maximize AEA capabilities and reduce risk in a Joint major contingency operation. An additional 22 EA-18Gs would allow the carrier air wing electronic attack squadron to increase from five to seven aircraft per squadron,” Greenert wrote. The 22 aircraft would cost $2.14 billion.

The Navy also requested $190 million for two C-40A aircraft, $146 million for one E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, $51 million for three Small Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems and spares, $83 million to move faster with the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) service life extension program (SLEP), and $30 million for an additional H-1 helicopter. It also adds $15 million in research and development money to add a tanker capability to the V-22 Osprey, as well as $24 million in R&D for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement, which had been reduced in prior years due to sequestration.

The Marine Corps submitted its own UPL despite its budget falling within the Navy’s budget. Its list totals $2.55 billion–the smallest by far, with more than half of it coming from aviation modernization accounts. The Marines asked for $875.5 million for five F-35C jets and $141.6 million for one F-35B jet to replace the six AV-8B Harriers lost during a September 2012 attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. They also want $30 million for an AH-1Z helicopter to replace an older AH-1W that was damaged in an in-flight fire; $86.6 million for a new C-40; $75.1 million for a new KC-130J; and $8.9 million in research and development dollars to add a planned air traffic control function to the Marines’ Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar. The service also asks for money to add two new Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, one in U.S. Central Command and one in U.S. Southern Command, after the success of the first SP-MAGTF for U.S. Africa Command that is based out of Spain.

The Air Force asked for $7.99 billion in a list that includes money requested in the president’s OGSI fund to “accelerate recapitalization programs such as F-35A, MQ-9 and C-130J, as well as modifications and upgrades to current aircraft,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh wrote in his letter to McKeon. The service would need $372.3 million for two F-35s, $49.5 million for three foreign military sales of the F-35, $510 million each for five HC-130J and give MC-130J transport planes, and $192 million to buy 12 MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial systems.

The Air Force request also includes four initiatives that have come to his attention since the OGSI fund was written: a $153.8 million boost to the Nuclear Force Improvement Program, which Welsh called the number one priority in the UPL; $563 million in additional military pay funding to support a smooth personnel drawdown; $200 million to begin work on the Combat Rescue Helicopter in FY ’15 as a bridge until the program receives full funding in FY ’16; and an additional $183.3 million for the Space Weapon System Sustainment program to reduce a backlog of work.

The National Guard Bureau asked for $1.55 billion for the Army National Guard and $2.6 billion for the Air National Guard, with the largest acquisition project being $720 million to convert 10 C-130Hs to C-130Js.

Some but not all the combatant commanders chose to submit lists. U.S. Special Operations Command asked for $400 million for military construction and readiness; U.S. Pacific Command asked for $164.4 million for primarily bombs and missiles; U.S. Southern Command requested $257.1 million for C4I upgrades, a maritime support vessel, restoring intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance funding lost in sequestration, and a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration for a foliage penetration LIDAR system; and U.S. Strategic Forces Command asked for $49 million to restore funding lost to sequestration, $81.2 million to restore readiness and $51 million for “high payoff initiatives.”

U.S. Northern Command wrote a letter to McKeon to say it had no items to request, which is “primarily a result of DoD’s fiscal guidance that identified Homeland Defense as the Department’s top priority.” The other combatant commanders did not submit responses to McKeon’s request for UPLs.

The military had sent Congress these unfunded priorities lists until Defense Secretary Robert Gates put an end to the practice. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) wrote a letter to the service chiefs and combatant commanders on Feb. 14 to stress the importance of these letters as Congress sought to better understand the military’s needs amid tight budgets.