White House Budget Cuts Could Reverse Progress, Military Strategy Experts Say

Commission on the National Defense Strategy co-chairmen retired Navy Adm. Gary Roughead (left), the 29th Chief of Naval Operations, and former ambassador Eric Edelman (right), testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Nov. 27. SASC screenshots.

The Trump administration’s push for across-the-board budget cuts could make it difficult for the Pentagon to implement the National Defense Strategy, the leaders of an independent commission that reviewed the strategy told lawmakers on Tuesday.

The Pentagon planned to present a $733 billion budget proposal for Fiscal 2020—the anticipated “floor” to implement the National Defense Strategy, retired Adm. Gary Roughead, the 29th Chief of Naval Operations, and former ambassador Eric Edelman, the co-chairmen of the Commission on the National Defense Strategy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. However, President Trump recently ordered government departments to prepare for a 5 percent budget cut, which would bring that budget from the current enacted level of $716 billion down to $700 billion.

The proposed cut “is a step in the wrong direction,” Roughead and Edelman said in testimony to the committee. “Sustained, timely, real budgetary growth is needed to deliver the defense the American people expect and deserve.”

The Pentagon is preparing two separate requests, one at its original level and one at the requested reduction, since the higher amount has been in planning for months and “we are not going to reverse course,” Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said last month, noting the cuts could affect areas such as hypersonics and other modernization efforts.

The Commission released its Congressionally mandated report earlier this month, stating that the military has eroded to a “dangerous degree” at a time when the country’s security is at a great risk. Specifically for the Air Force, the commission said the service needs more aircraft and weapons systems, especially bombers, long-range fighters, tankers, and, most of all, surveillance aircraft.