Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) is proposing adding $430 billion in defense spending over the next five fiscal years to address what he calls a damaged military.

Acknowledging that his proposed budget boost is $100 billion above sequestration budget caps, McCain proposes the 115th Congress first repeal those caps. He proposes a total budget that starts at $700 billion for fiscal year 2018 (with $640 billion for a base budget) and rises to $800 billion for FY ’22, an increase at a rate of 4 percent per year. Once sequestration is repealed, McCain proposes that Congress and the incoming Trump administration develop a plan to transition enduring Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), or wartime spending, back to the base budget. Lawmakers and the Pentagon used OCO spending to largely evade defense spending caps as OCO was not subject to sequestration.

F-35 developer Lockheed Martin is part of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) trade group. Photo: Air Force
F-35 developer Lockheed Martin is part of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) trade group. Photo: Air Force

The Navy would be a big winner under McCain’s plan as he proposes ramping up shipbuilding and procuring 59 additional ships in the next five years. These include five fast attack submarines, five fleet oilers, three destroyers, two amphibious ships, two afloat forward staging bases, two undersea surveillance ships, two survey ships, two patrol ships, one aircraft carrier and one new small surface combatant.

McCain also wants the Navy to increase and accelerate investment in unmanned and autonomous systems–on the sea, under the sea and in the air–that could enhance capabilities in certain areas such as minelaying, surveillance and offensive strike. McCain wants more investment in undersea warfare while accelerating unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV) of various classes and the supporting undersea infrastructure.

McCain proposes the Navy increase procurement of manned submarines from two per year to three per year in 2020 and four per year starting in 2021. McCain also suggests curtailing Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) procurement in calendar year 2017, buying only enough ships to bridge for the next Small Surface Combatant, which he said could begin procurement in calendar year 2022 or sooner.

Missile defense would also be a big winner under McCain’s plan as he calls for the expansion of the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system, including an additional interceptor site in the eastern United States. McCain also proposes increasing regional missile defense capabilities, including more interceptors for the Aegis ashore sites in Romania and Poland. McCain wants development of the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) and Multiple Object Kill Vehicle (MOKV) accelerated. He calls for better capability in sensor systems, including increased coverage against Iran, and space-based sensor architecture that could potentially serve as an alternative to costly ground-based radars.

The Pentagon needs to reevaluate the F-35 program and how many aircraft it plans to acquire, McCain says. He says the Air Force’s total projected buy of 1,753 F-35As is unrealistic due to low procurement rate, and that it should be reconsidered, though this decision doesn’t have to be made during the next five years. On the other hand, McCain says the goal for the next five years should be procuring as many F-35As as possible with an ultimate goal of moving beyond the program as quickly as possible. McCain also wants procurement of the F-35B and F-35C accelerated as quickly as possible.