‘Defense Is Not A Biden Administration Priority’: Defense Experts Examine Biden’s Focus Shifting
U.S. President Joe Biden pauses while speaking in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, May 10, 2021. Biden highlighted federal assistance that should help Americans return to work, three days after a surprisingly weak April jobs report stoked criticism that excess government benefits are persuading some people to stay at home.
Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Speaking on a panel hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, one defense expert stated that the Biden administration had apparently decided that national defense should take a back seat to other domestic issues, asserting, “Defense is not a Biden administration priority.”

Speaking with host Mackenzie Eaglen of AEI, former Acting Undersecretary of Defense Comptroller Elaine McCusker said bluntly, “Defense is not a Biden administration priority, and there is an attempt to redesign what constitutes a national security investment, to divert defense funds to non-Corps activities.”

“Why do I say this?” she continued. “We got previews of this fact with the international security guidance earlier this year, which actually didn’t terribly focus on defense; and in early April, with the discretionary budget top-lines. For example, the OMB press release did not even mention defense.”

Citing statistics to show the direction the Biden administration was taking, she said, “And defense was the only federal function to not even keep pace with inflation. While domestic agencies went up by 16%, including a 41% increase for the Department of Education, also of note, the only federal agency to take a cut, at 10% was the Corps of Engineers.”

“This fact was further confirmed on Friday with the White House budget summary that mentions no actual military capabilities,” she pressed. “Among the investments discussed under the heading, ‘Confronting 21st Century Security Challenges’ are COVID, foreign assistance, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund, and establishing a global health security agenda, among other topics. When the summary touches briefly on the China threat and the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, it notes the importance of cybersecurity, but highlights none of the myriad investments required to compete militarily with China.”

Retired Army Major General John Ferrari pointed out that another “danger” lurked for the defense budget. Ferrari stated: “I think there’s a hidden danger in the defense budget that we really have to talk about going forward and now and that’s inflation. Inflation is the hidden danger that will eat the defense budget. Recently, the I savings bond, the inflation index savings bond, is now yielding 3.5%. If that’s in anticipation of inflation of 3.5% the Department is in a lot of trouble.”

“I was surprised the most by how the Navy and the administration walked away from what at the end of the Trump administration was a big rollout of the 500-ship autonomous Navy,” Ferrari added.

USNI noted, “The Fiscal Year 2022 shipbuilding request is seeking $22.6 billion, a 3 percent drop from Fiscal Year’s 2021 shipbuilding total.”

“The Air Force is cutting 201 aircraft, including 42 A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, 48 F-15C/D Eagle strike fighters and 47 F-16 Falcons for $1.37 billion,” USNI pointed out.

McCusker and Ferrari have stated in a paper titled, “Defense Budget Lessons”:

The new Pentagon leadership should be aware of and guard against two previous failed approaches to budget reductions: seeing the world as we want to be, not how it is (i.e. the “peace dividend”), and forcing a choice between capacity and capability (I.e. the “drawdown”).  The first failed approach is to mischaracterize the near-term threat, enabling apparently riskless decisions to cut current readiness. We know this approach, previously called a peace dividend, creates only cognitive dissonance between strategy and budget. Russia, the Middle East, North Korea and an aggressive China will not sit by while we assume away near-term risk.

This article has been corrected to note Ferrari retired as a major general. 

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