Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services Committee are calling for President Biden to request a defense budget for fiscal year 2023 that would reflect a five percent increase above the “inflation-adjusted” spending level set for the current fiscal year. 

The GOP members of the Armed Services Committees detailed their request for the defense spending boost in a letter to Biden on Wednesday, which arrives as the White House is set to roll out its FY ‘23 budget request on March 28.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, leads a press conference on Nov. 2 2021.

“As you prepare your fiscal year 2023 budget for submission to Congress, we strongly encourage you to reject the approach you took last year when you proposed to cut defense spending below the rate of inflation. Instead, we urge you to request a 5 percent increase over the inflation-adjusted FY22 enacted level,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter was signed by all 13 Republicans on SASC and every GOP member on HASC, besides Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). 

“Not since 1982 has our nation experienced this level of inflation. It is driving up the cost of fuel, supplies, and labor for the defense industrial base and the Department of Defense. Failing to provide a budget request that exceeds the rate of inflation equates to a cut in real dollars — a cut we can no longer afford,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

The group of Republicans cite China’s “unprecedented” military modernization that has “left us behind in key areas in the Western Pacific” and threats from Russia based on its ongoing invasion of Ukraine and that Putin’s “appetite and erratic behavior is likely to grow” as key factors for boosting defense spending in the next fiscal year.

They specifically call on Biden to use the FY ‘23 budget request to target investments in areas such as cyber, modernizing the nuclear triad, growing naval and projection forces and advancing procurement of new technological innovations.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the chair of SASC, told reporters on Wednesday that any such increase to defense spending over the president’s budget request, as was done with the FY ‘22 topline, will require aligning decisions to larger strategic considerations.

“The budget should be driven by strategy, not strategy driven by the budget. I think you have to look at the situation in the world at the moment and the strategy that the administration is proposing. One of the issues we have, and everyone has, is we don’t yet have a National Security Strategy or a National Defense Strategy, which includes the Nuclear Posture Review. So we have to get the strategy, which I hope we do promptly, and then look at the budget and see if that sufficiently supports the strategy,” Reed said. “My sense is, as we did last year, let’s look at the strategy, let’s look at the threats which drive strategy and let’s see if we have a budget that meets the threats with a sound strategy.”

As the group of Republicans notes in its letter, the final FY ‘22 appropriations legislation included boosting defense-related spending by nearly $30 billion over the original budget request (Defense Daily, March 11).