The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to increase the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2022 topline by $25 billion above the president’s $715 billion budget request in its version of the next defense policy bill.

The topline boost, which was confirmed by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) on a Thursday call with reporters, was approved during SASC’s closed door National Defense Authorization markup on Wednesday.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.)

“The committee agreed, based on just the world the way that it is now and the challenges that we’re facing, to increase the topline [by] about $25 billion to nearly $740 billion,” Kaine said.

Kaine noted that $2 billion of the $25 billion increase will specifically go toward authorizing increased funds for shipbuilding and ship repair efforts. 

“It’ll be good for the [submarine] program. It’ll be good for ship repairs. And I think that’s all very, very positive,” Kaine said.

The $715 billion topline figure, which would be a 1.6 percent increase over FY ‘21 spending levels, has faced persistent scrutiny from Republican lawmakers for falling below calls for three to five percent annual budget growth.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the SASC ranking member, has called Biden’s defense budget request “wholly inadequate” and said “it’s disingenuous to call this request an increase because it doesn’t even keep up with inflation — it’s a cut” (Defense Daily, May 28). 

Kaine noted, while SASC’s Democrats supported the topline increase measure, it’s unclear whether the House Armed Services Committee will consider a similar measure when that panel takes up its NDAA markup on Sept. 1.

“We don’t know exactly yet what topline the House will come out [with]. Will they do the president’s number? Will they do a different one? We’ll encourage them to do ours. But that may be something we’ll have to work out in conference,” Kaine said.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the HASC chairman, has said he supports the $715 billion budget request and believes the committee should instead spend its time figuring out how that money is best spent rather than debating the topline figure.

“I think the [topline budget] number they sent us is absolutely right. It’s very well thought out. They’ve got a great plan and a great strategy. And if we, in Congress, waste an enormous amount of time fighting over whether or not we’ve got to add a few more dollars or cut a few more dollars, we’re really missing the boat,” Smith has said previously (Defense Daily, April 22).