The Obama administration’s budget blueprint for the next five fiscal years will try to kick-start the long-awaited defense technology push at the Pentagon, including futuristic fighters, energy weapons, underwater unmanned vehicles and other advances sought to stay ahead of China, Russia, hackers and terrorists.

But to do so it calls for $585.3 billion, about 17% more than current budget caps stipulate for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, as well as by asking Congress, again, to swallow politically unpalatable changes like base closures and personnel benefit reductions.

The combined request represents an increase of almost $25 billion, around 4%, over the current fiscal year. According to administration documents, the fiscal 2016 base defense budget request of $534.3 billion includes an increase of $38.2 billion over the 2015 enacted budget of $496.1 billion – but also more than $34 billion over the so-called sequestration spending limits established under the 2011 Budget Control and 2013 Bipartisan Budget acts.

The Defense Department’s 2016 off-book budget request, officially called the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account for purportedly war-related spending, is $50.9 billion, or $13.3 billion – about 21% – lower than the 2015 enacted level of $64.2 billion.

The 2016 budget request and accompanying 2016-2020 future years defense program (FYDP) maintains the strategic approaches outlined by the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, which announced the "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific region after a dozen years of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere against al Qaeda and similar terrorists, documents said.

Last week the deputy defense secretary told a Washington think tank crowd that 2014 developments like Russian aggression in Ukraine and the rise of the Islamic State had not yet worked up to the level of altering U.S. national security strategy. Still, the latest blueprint was crafted "while taking account" of those developments, documents said Feb. 2.

But what industry will find significantly new is the effort to match dollars with the Defense Innovation Initiative and its Long-Range Research and Development Planning Program, including high-speed strike weapons; railguns; better positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT); and high-energy lasers. "The department’s investments in new technologies are designed to yield a force that achieves the nation’s security objectives and makes key investments to address challenges to U.S. technological superiority," documents said.

"The budget also invests in the vital capabilities highlighted in the QDR, including nuclear deterrence, space-based systems, power projection, missile defense, cyber security, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and counterterrorism and special operations," they continued. "Funding is requested for improved base resiliency, for space launch initiatives to develop an alternative domestic launch capability, and for advanced sensors, communications and munitions."

At the same time, the budget also "resubmits a number" of cuts and reforms proposed about a year ago in the 2015 budget request, including changes to Defense Department business operations, force structure cuts and platform retirements like the Air Force’s A-10 aircraft and restructuring Army aviation, and base infrastructure reductions, among others – almost all of which was rejected or deferred by lawmakers last year.

For instance, the request released Feb. 2 proposed 11,300 fewer uniforms in total force military end strength starting next fiscal year. The 2016 force structure would be 1.3 million active duty end strength, 811,000 Reserve component end strength, and 773,000 civilian full-time equivalents. Weapon units would remain 49 tactical fighter squadrons, 54 Army Brigade Combat Teams, 14 ballistic missile submarines, 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 96 operational bombers (for a total of 154 overall), and a 304-warship Navy with 11 carriers.

Almost 24% ($126.5 billion) of the 2016 base request went to the Army, while more than 30% ($161 billion) went to the Navy and Marine Corps and nearly 29% ($152.9 billion) for the Air Force. The rest of the proposed budget, more than 17% ($94 billion), funds department-wide programs and activities such as the Defense Health Program, U.S. Special Operations Command, defense intelligence agencies, the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and smaller Pentagon agencies.

The Feb. 2 request for fiscal 2016 and five-year blueprint begins what ought to be an eight-month-long legislative process of reviewing and appropriating funds against the plans. However, Congress and the White House this year are first expected to have to try to reach another deal to ameliorate or replace sequestration spending caps, with most analysts and observers expecting another 50-50 compromise represented by the Bipartisan Budget Act, also called the Murray-Ryan deal.

If not, lawmakers may only be able to agree on a continuing resolution of fiscal 2015 into part or all of fiscal 2016. They may also try to inflate the OCO budget to make up for lower-than-desired baseline appropriations. Sequestration caps do not apply to OCO spending, but that account is subject to the automatic, across-the-board cuts of about 7% if Congress appropriated more than the 2011 law allows.

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