Updated: May 7
Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday warned this week that President Biden’s proposed military budget effectively end up being a cut for the Navy because of inflation and rising operating costs.
Biden proposed a $715 billion defense budget for FY 2022, but in remarks to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Gilday said that number will be “lucky to keep up with inflation.”
The $715 billion proposal is a 1.6 percent increase from the current $704 billion budget. But critics note that this increase is a bit below the current inflation rate, which means DOD is effectively getting less.
Gilday added that rising operating costs will put a further squeeze on operations, which means the Navy’s dollars won’t stretch as far unless it somehow gains access to other defense spending. There has been talk of giving the Navy a bigger piece of the overall DOD budget, but it won’t be clear for several more weeks whether Biden’s plan allows that.
GIlday said the Navy’s budget has essentially been flat since 2010. But there are other factors at play that put the Navy at a further disadvantage.
First, DOD is still operating under the National Defense Strategy devised by Secretary James Mattis in 2018. According to Mattis’s calculations, DOD spending should be as high as $754 billion next year, not $715 billion. Without an increase, DOD will be carrying out a plan with 5 percent less funding that was recommended.
Secondly, Biden’s plan still has to go through Congress, where many Democrats could push for cuts in a bid to find more funding for social spending.
Gilday stressed that he favors the 355-ship fleet for the Navy that was passed into law in 2017, and which remains a lofty goal – today’s Navy is just under 300 ships. “ I still think that’s a really good target,” he said of the 355 number.
Part of the reason a bigger fleet is needed is to counter China’s rising strength across the globe. He described China’s strategy this way:
“China approaches things by bringing them to a slow boil,” he said, adding that when China thinks it can win with acceptable risks, China will move. “That’s why the Navy being deployed in numbers, and readiness, is so important.” The Navy needs to deploy enough forward force to create doubt in China’s mind about the possibility of victory, he said.
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