“We have little margin left for error or strategic surprise,” Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Monday.
The budget includes a lot of money for high-profile acquisition projects like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ($10.6 billion to buy 57 planes), the P-8 Poseidon ($3.4 billion to buy 16 new planes) and the construction of nine new Navy ships ($11.6 billion). But the services also need to spend more money on readiness, making sure that equipment is ready to use and troops are well trained on it, defense officials said.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the military has been “surviving, but not thriving,” over the last three years.
“The proposed budget helps ensure we can manage risk and meet near-term defense needs while preparing for the future,” he said. ” However, it represents the minimum resource level necessary to remain a capable, ready and appropriately sized force able to meet our global commitments.”
As The Washington Post noted on Sunday, the federal spending cap known as sequestration has been in place since 2013. The Pentagon wants Congress set the cap aside and provide more money, saying it still needs to reset after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and perform present-day missions ranging from fighting the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria to countering Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.
Many of the national security threats Reagan faced are different. But the Pentagon message is clear: It can only improvise for so long until it’s time to reassess what military is being asked to do worldwide.