Pentagon’s S$980 billion budget boosts nuclear weapons funding

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon's US$705.4 billion (S$980.33 billion) budget proposal for the next fiscal year would boost funding for nuclear weapons systems including intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and F-35 jets as well as providing more money for emerging technology research and the Space Force.

The budget proposal for the fiscal year starting Oct 1, to be submitted to Congress on Monday (Feb 10), is mostly flat compared with the US$712.6 billion plan approved for this year. But it shifts that funding in ways that signal President Donald Trump's evolving priorities.

The budget details are part of the Pentagon Comptroller's 134-page overview obtained by Bloomberg News in advance of its formal release.

The budget plan, which forms a base for discussions with Congress, includes a US$15.3 billion “transitional budget,” transferred from the Air Force to the new Space Force, that “includes space-related weapons systems and operations,” sustainment, and civilian support . That's up from US$40 million this fiscal year.

Mr Trump has repeatedly touted increased military funding as one of his key successes heading into the 2020 election, most recently in his State of the Union speech in which he said he raised military spending by US$2.2 trillion since taking office.

Under the latest proposal, US$10.3 billion of the US$15.3 billion for the Space Force, the sixth US military service, is for research, development, test and evaluation of systems, with US$2.4 billion for procurement and US$2.6 billion for operations and maintenance, according to the overview.

Overall, the defence budget includes US$637 billion in base spending and an US$69 billion for operation.

For the second consecutive year, the Pentagon is proposing a research and development request of more than US$100 billion. The US$106.5 billion would be a US$2 billion increase over this year.

Procurement spending – which includes funds for key weapons systems – would fall by US$6.8 billion from the current year to US$136.8 billion.

Still, Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 would do well – the Pentagon requests US$11.4 billion to purchase 79 jets, two fewer than planned last year. It will also request 12 of Boeing Co's new F-15EX plane that the Pentagon started to buy last year as a hedge against F-35 delays, up from eight this year.

The proposal boosts items involving nuclear weapons, or makes only minor cuts, largely following the outlines in the Trump administration's Nuclear Posture Review. The fiscal 2021 request includes US$17.7 billion for nuclear modernisation.

The Pentagon this week confirmed it has fielded a low-yield, sea-launched nuclear warhead aboard a submarine.

The budget also proposes:

– US$4.4 billion for the new Columbia-class nuclear missile submarine, which construction this year. That's US$2.1 billion more than the current budget.

– US$4.2 billion to improve the nation's nuclear command and control system that “provides assured and resilient connectivity between the President and nuclear forces.” It would be a US$700 million increase.

– US$2.8 billion for the B-21 Raider stealth bomber, about US$100 million less than this year, for the “penetrating aircraft that incorporates proven, mature technologies”, US$1.5 billion for the new ground-based strategic deterrent ICBM, US$1 billion more than this year. So far, Northrop Grumman Corp is the sole bidder for the missile.

– US$500 million for the long-range standoff cruise missile, or about US$200 million less than this year; US$110 million to continue development of a “dual capable” nuclear weapon-carrying F-35, an increase of about US$40 million from this year. The plane is scheduled to be nuclear- certified by 2024.

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