The leader of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) said Wednesday he expects Congress will move to boost defense spending over the president’s request topline, adding it won’t be by an “insignificant amount.”

The comments from Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the HASC chair, arrive a day after the House Appropriations Committee released its version of the next defense spending bill with a topline roughly matching the budget request and as his committee gets set to markup the next National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a week.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee

“I’m certain that there will be an amendment offered to increase the defense budget. We’ll see by how much, but it’s not going to be an insignificant amount,” Smith told reporters during a Defense Writers Group discussion.

While House appropriators’ $761.7 billion defense spending bill for fiscal year 2023 represents a $32 billion increase over the enacted FY ‘22 spending level, the topline figure will likely face tough opposition from Republicans who have called for larger defense budget growth over inflation (Defense Daily, June 14). 

Smith said he predicts the Senate Armed Services Committee will likely arrive at a higher topline as well when it rolls out its version of the next NDAA, while reiterating his view that the president’s budget request was “reasonably well-balanced.”

“I think what the president has put together in this budget is a modernized force that, if we handle the diplomacy, the partnerships and the alliances properly, puts us in a position to deter those adversaries and move us more toward a world that has a rules-based international order and that moves toward more economic and political freedom,” Smith said.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), HASC’s top Republican, has said he predicts Congress will ‘ignore’ the president’s budget and once again boost defense spending over the president’s requested topline, following the move to increase spending by nearly $25 billion for the FY ‘22 bill (Defense Daily, May 2).

Smith was also asked if he agrees with Republicans’ arguments that the requested topline effectively represents a cut when factoring for inflation.

“It sort of focuses on a certain sort of semantic arguments. I don’t see Republicans similarly concerned about the rest of the budget,” Smith said. “There’s a whole bunch of things we can do in order to save money in a crisis other than just saying give me more.”

The HASC chair did say he expects the Pentagon’s research and development funding will see a “plus up” in the NDAA mark, which would follow House appropriators’ move to boost the account by $1.6 billion in its bill.