Pentagon officials have said time and time again that they are playing by the rules this year, submitting a budget request that is in line with congressional caps.
Except for one tiny detail: They want an extra $26 billion.
The request for additional money is part of the administration's "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative" for the 2015 fiscal year—roughly half of which is slated to go to the Pentagon—that would be paid for through a mix of tax and spending reforms. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress earlier this month that the funding is "to try to buy back some of the readiness and modernization that we've lost over the last two years because of the huge abrupt cuts" included in the sequester.
But the Defense Department should brace for an uphill fight to get what it wants. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon told Hagel and other top officials that he was not "paying attention" to the prospect of the extra money "because I think that's in the realm of 'it would be wonderful, but it's not going to happen.' "
And though the Pentagon's full wish list hasn't been made public yet, we've rounded up the department's major asks:
A big part of the Army's extra funding request goes toward training—at a cost of $1.8 billion—and boosting base and facility maintenance, which would cost about $1.6 billion. But the Army also wants to buy additional aircraft, including 26 Apache helicopters at a total cost of $600 million and 28 Blackhawk helicopters that would cost another $500 million.
The extra aircraft are part of a musical-chairs-like shift expected to take place in light of a tighter budget. The Army's Guard will be giving up its Apaches to the Army's active-duty component, and in turn be getting the active-duty component's current Blackhawks, which Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said earlier this month "will provide tremendous capabilities within the home states," including when Guard members help during natural-disaster recovery.
The Navy's largest request is focused squarely on its buildings, with the service asking for $2.3 billion to keep its facilities up to spec.
The extra funding would also be used to help compensate for the Navy's decision to scale back its purchases of the Poseidon aircraft. The Navy is reducing its expected buy between 2015 and 2018 from 56 of the aircraft to 49. But Congress could help prevent that reduction by approving the Navy's request to use $1.1 billion to pay for additional Poseidon aircraft. The maritime plane can be used to hunt submarines, to gather intelligence, or—as they currently are—to try to find a missing plane.
The Navy also wants an additional three C-40 aircraft, often used to transport cargo, and an E-2D Hawkeye, used to track long-range threats. But it's unclear at the moment how much of the Pentagon's total request these planes would make up.
The Air Force
Similar to the Navy, the Air Force wants more upkeep and construction at its facilities. The service is asking for $1.6 billion for facilities maintenance and repair, and another $1.4 billion for construction.
But officials are also hoping to use $1.1 billion to buy 10 additional C-130 aircraft. The planes were frequently used for cargo transportation, in Afghanistan, and they are part of the Air Force's push to boost its presence in Europe in the wake of Russia's incursion into and annexation of Crimea. Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force's chief of staff, told a congressional committee last week that the Air Force would be sending a squadron of C-130s to Poland for a training mission.
They're also hoping to get a few more eyes in the sky through a boost in unmanned aircraft. The Air Force is asking for 12 Reaper planes at a cost of approximately $200 million.
This article appears in the March 21, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.