The White House released the fiscal 2021 budget request this week for Department of Defense funding. The request prioritizes readiness and modernization, the strengthening of partnerships, performance and accountability reforms, and service members. The budget for next fiscal year also would call for a 13% boost in Veterans Affairs discretionary spending to about $105 billion, bringing the department’s entire projected budget up more than 10 percent.
For those in uniform, the department asked for a 3% pay increase across the board, along with raising housing and subsistence allowances.
The budget focuses heavily on the significant counterintelligence threats America faces – threats recently highlighted by Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center William Evanina: “We had a horrible year last year in 2019, with indictments, arrests, convictions of clearance-holders as well as arrests, indictments, convictions of non-traditional collectors in the private sector — theft of intellectual property and trade secrets,” Evanina said at a meeting of the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology. “It was not a good year for industry nor the government.”
The 2021 budget proposal notes, “The 21st century requires us to focus on great power rivals; prioritize artificial intelligence, 5G, and industries of the future; and to protect our research and environment from foreign government influence.”
Security Clearance Reform Efforts Highlighted
The White House touted the successful transfer of the background investigations mission in its budget proposal, requesting funding for the continued development of the National Background Information System and the technology needed to continue to protect and advance the personnel security mission.
“The transfer will dramatically improve the ability of agencies to deliver mission outcomes, and will continue to provide economy of scale in addressing the Federal Government’s background investigations workload. The Budget requests funding for critical technology protection associated with this mission, while eliminating the need for additional resources since these activities are funded via the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency Working Capital Fund,” the budget proposal states.
Other Defense Budget Priorities
Top priorities for defense in the budget request include nuclear modernization, missile defeat and defense, space and cyberspace.
For fiscal 2021, DoD is asking for $28.9 billion to fund modernization of the nuclear defense program, covering all three legs of the nuclear triad: land, sea and air. “This increase in awards spending will allow agencies to effect an awards and recognition program that drives positive behavior, provides opportunities for employees to develop, grow and enhance their careers and recognizes accomplishments in a timely way,” the 2021 budget request reads. “The increase also ensures that agencies have sufficient funding to differentiate among levels of performance and maintain an appropriate distribution between performance awards and individual contribution awards.”
Defense officials said the research, development, testing and evaluation budget request is the largest in history, at $106.6 billion. Funding requests for hypersonics at $3.2 billion, microelectronics at $1.5 billion and artificial intelligence at $800 million highlight DoD priorities with regard to the great-power competition, Pentagon officials said. The request for hypersonics would be an increase of 23% over last year, while artificial intelligence would get a 7.8% bump.
The bulk of the budget request goes toward modernization. For air, the budget is $3 billion. On the sea, the budget request is for a total of $8.2 billion. On land, the Army and Marine Corps would receive joint light tactical vehicles at $1.4 billion and $1.5 billion for modifications and upgrades to tanks.