The Biden administration is ready to increase the president’s request for defense, sent to Congress just six weeks ago to mitigate the impact of inflation on the military, said the Pentagon’s civilian leader 2.
Deputy Defense Minister Kathleen Hicks’s remarks come amid intense criticism from Republicans, who have already pressured the president, top administration and military leaders to increase the defense budget to cover rising costs from the Russia-Ukraine conflict and compete with the accumulation of China’s military forces.
“We are concerned that the Ministry is not taking a proactive stance to mitigate the harmful effects of inflation,” said Sen. Jim Inhoff, R-Okla, and Mike Rodgers, R-Ala, members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. stated in a statement this week. “The department does not seem to understand well how inflation harms our servicemen and their families – and how this in turn affects recruitment and retention.”
The Department of Defense has asked for $ 773 billion for fiscal 2023, an 8% increase from the administration’s request for the previous year and 4% more than Congress approved for the military on the 2022 omnibus. But as inflation reaches up to 8.5 percent in March and uncertainty about the future of the economy, lawmakers are worried about how far this money will go.
Hicks said the Pentagon is ready and willing to work with Congress on an updated budget number that reflects the most accurate estimates of inflation.
“We don’t know what that inflation will be,” Hicks said in an interview Friday with Roger Zackheim, director of the Ronald Reagan Institute and a former senior member of the Republican Armed Services Committee. “The number of inflation we used last fall … is always just a forecast. We don’t know where inflation will be in September, let alone next year, but we want to work with Congress on Budget 23 to make sure we have the purchasing power for this program.
Despite best estimates from the Pentagon and Congress, Biden administration leaders could ask Congress for more money in requests for additional budgets next year if inflation costs jump more than expected, she said.
“If at the end of the day, this program with an inflation factor will again be a forecast from the United States Congress, which we all think is closer to accurate, and then we will work on additional next year all where we are. I’m going… I think that’s a really good result for us, “she said.
Inflation tends to hit defense harder than other economic sectors, according to McKinsey & Company report in March. The Pentagon’s budget is currently expected to increase to $ 810 billion by 2026, excluding military construction. If inflation stays at 7 percent a year and the budget is not increased to reflect rising spending, it will reduce the purchasing power of the Department of Defense – the money it spends on new weapons, equipment, suppliers and other items – to $ 578 billion in 2026 ., according to the report. The cumulative loss of purchasing power between 2021 and 2026 could be about $ 480 billion, or the equivalent of about 6,000 F-35 fighter jets.
Hicks called on Congress to adopt a budget ahead of the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, saying accepting the department’s request for a higher budget is better than closing spending at 2022, especially with rising inflation. In recent years, lawmakers have frequently debated the bill on the annual defense spending permit until the fall or winter, months after the fiscal deadline, funding the federal government through a series of ongoing resolutions or CRs.
“The best way to reduce inflation is to have timely appropriations,” she said. “That 4 percent is 4 percent more than we would get if we stayed on CR, and I think we all know we’re going to be on CR.”