In order to "project power," officials in the United States Defense Department are urging Congress to approve the military spending increase requested for 2018 under the Trump administration, as well as to repeal the Budget Control Act of 2011 in order to remove existing limits on military spending.
Although the U.S. military budget is already the highest in the world by several orders of magnitude, almost three times that of China's which has the second largest military budget, officials are saying that current budget controls are harming U.S. “military readiness” and “competitive advantage” against so-called “potential adversaries” such as China, Russia, the DPRK, and Iran.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said that budget increases, and the repeal of the Budget Control Act is necessary to "put more aircraft in the air, more ships to sea and more troops in the field."
Mattis alleged that limits to the military budget are among the top enemies to the U.S. military. “No enemy in the field has done more to harm the combat readiness of our military than (budget) sequestration,” Mattis said.
The legislation under attack from U.S. military officials is the Budget Control Act of 2011, which instated budget caps across the board on government spending, including mandated limits and cuts on military. Marine Corps General Joe Dunford has said that although the budget increases for 2018 are an “essential step” to “restore” U.S. “competitive advantage,” they are still looking to push for more “sustained investment” in future years.
The 2018 budget request for military spending requested a US$33 billion increase from the previous fiscal year, raising the total expenditure up to a whopping US$639 billion.
With the second and third largest military spending in the world, China's military budget is a third of the U.S.'s at US$215 billion, and Russia's less than a tenth, at US$69 billion.
In spite of the already massive military spending that dwarf's so-called “potential adversaries,” officials nonetheless maintain that sustained increases in military spending above inflation are necessary to “project power” abroad. They cite the modernization of China and Russia's nuclear arsenals, and the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea's nuclear missile development program as evidence of this supposed necessity.
“Our adversaries and our potential adversaries have developed advanced capabilities and operational approaches specifically designed to limit our ability to project power," General Dunford said while referencing China, Russia, the DPRK, and Iran.
The U.S. and Russia each have a nuclear arsenal of roughly 7,000 warheads each, although the U.S. remains the only country to have used their arsenal in combat. China's arsenal is significantly smaller, at 260 warheads, and North Korea's program is still in early stages of development, with less than 10 warheads and unproven delivery potential.
In an interview with The Cipher Brief earlier this year, Lieutenant General David Deptula insisted that limiting U.S. military spending was “irresponsible,” and that so-called “combat readiness” does not have a political constituency.
A sizable portion of the U.S. “defense” budget goes toward the operation of over 800 military installations in over 70 countries worldwide. Although the U.S. has expressed concern in recent reports about China's military and economic ambitions as a rising superpower, China only has one overseas base in Djibouti.