The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee said Monday he predicts Congress will once again boost defense spending over the president’s requested topline and reverse select plans in the budget that call for legacy system divestments.
“The fact is the budget just doesn’t deal with that reality. It didn’t last year. Congress had to address that. But I make this point, and I’ve been up here a long time, presidents propose budgets, Congress writes budgets. And I don’t care if it’s a Republican president or a Democrat president, when we get their budget we say ‘Thank you,’ and ignore it. And that’s basically what we’re going to do again this year,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) the HASC ranking member, said during a Hudson Institute discussion.
President Biden’s budget request, rolled out in late March, called for a $773 billion Pentagon topline, a four percent increase over the current spending level, which has drawn scrutiny from Republican lawmakers including Rogers.
“The [budget] proposal by the president makes modest increases. You need significant increases. And so we’ve been talking about making sure we get a budget for the Defense Department that is at least five percent over inflation. And, again, inflation right now is over 8.5 percent. It may go to 10 [percent], we don’t know,” Rogers said Monday.
Senior defense officials have previously noted the budget request assumed an inflation rate of about 2.2 percent, which Rogers said is “grossly out of line with reality,” adding the rate is likely closer to 8.5 percent.
Rogers said defense spending increases will likely need to be commonplace in the coming years to manage the Pentagon’s military modernization push as it looks to address China as the pacing challenge, adding it could be “at least a decade long and a very expensive endeavor.”
“It really doesn’t matter what the defense strategy is if we don’t have robust spending. I understand the ‘divest to invest’ [plan], but I don’t like the way they’re going about it,” Rogers said.
On ‘divest to invest’ plans in the budget request, Rogers said proposals to divest of 24 Navy ships while procuring eight new platforms or retiring hundreds of aircraft are “not going to happen.”
“The fact is it’s our responsibility as Congress to provide them with the resources they need to meet today’s threats while we prepare for the future. They’re not mutually exclusive. And that’s the thing we have to keep reminding them is to stop trying to make the threats fit the budget number that the president gave you. You worry about the threats and tell us how much it’s going to cost,” Rogers said.
For nuclear weapons program specifically, Rogers also said Congress is unlikely to approve plans to cut the Navy’s nuclear-tipped sea-launched cruise missile program or the number of B-83 gravity bombs (Defense Daily, April 18).
“Which we aren’t going to do [those], by the way. But just talking about it is not helpful when you’re trying to deter aggression,” Rogers said.