Reported Budget Cuts Would Slow B-21, Missile Warning, DOD Says


Credit: U.S. government

A potential reduction in Defense Department funding to 2022 levels would substantially delay the B-21 and Sentinel nuclear programs and cause a broad cut to space-based missile warning programs, the Pentagon warns in a new letter to lawmakers. 

The reported freeze in Pentagon funding to 2022 appropriated levels was reported in January as part of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)’s deliberations with the House Freedom Caucus. It would be a cut of $73.7 billion compared to the newly released $842 billion 2024 defense budget request, Pentagon comptroller Mike McCord writes in a March 17 letter to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the ranking member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. 

Specifically, McCord writes that the freeze could force 40% cuts to nuclear modernization, including the Sentinel ground-based strategic deterrent and Northrop Grumman B-21. This would cause “significant disruption and delays” as the B-21 begins low-rate initial production. 

Capping at fiscal 2022 levels would cause a 50% reduction to funding requested for space-based missile warning and ground-based midcourse missile defense, in turn delaying needed upgrades, the letter says. It would also cut 40% to the Pentagon’s Pacific Deterrence Initiative, likely canceling a U.S. Navy Virginia-class submarine and DDG-51 destroyer, among other impacts. 

“At a time when our allies in NATO and the Indo-Pacific region are increasing their security spending to the levels we have been advocating, a move backward on our part would send the wrong message both to our allies and our adversaries, and would undermine and put at risk much hard-earned progress in enhancing our collective security,” McCord says. 

While the cuts were reported as part of McCarthy’s deal to become speaker, it is not clear that they would have much support beyond small groups of lawmakers. Many in Congress, especially Republicans, have come forward to say President Biden’s $842 billion request is not large enough. Rep. Kay Granger, (R-Texas), who leads the House Appropriations Committee-Defense subcommittee, said in a statement that Biden’s plan spends too much on discretionary spending “at the expense of our national security.” 

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.