When Joe Biden recently announced his intent to increase The Pentagon’s spending budget to an astonishing $715 billion, both sides of the political spectrum raised eyebrows at the decision. With division being at the root of the country over the past decade, it was astonishing to see both parties come together over a reaction to the massive request. But beyond the flurry of publications politicizing the decision, the budget has been relatively consistent over the course of the last several presidencies.

During the George W. Bush administration, the budget was increased to $634.9 billion, during the Obama administration, it increased again to $663.4 billion, and during the latest Trump administration, it increased to $704 billion, a relatively minor change of 1.7% when considering the average increase over the last several four-year cycles. Biden continued along the same trajectory when in April of 2021, he announced his request for $715 billion for the Pentagon’s budget.

 

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But while still within the mean of the increased spending averages, $715 billion seems like a high sum that is hard to imagine in terms of a reference. But to help put it into perspective, there are approximately 330 million men, women, and children currently living in the United States, and broken down, $715 billion would mean roughly $2,166 per person, a figure slightly less than the average personal tax burden each year ($2,400). From another perspective, $715 billion is equal to about 5 Bill Gateses, according to his recent net worth. Or, if we consider Avengers: Endgame, the highest grossing film of all time, which raked in approximately $2.8 billion, it would take around 255 movies of equal caliber and success to equate the newly requested budget. Which, oddly enough, no longer seems steep when considering that the budget serves as the main defense mechanism for every American citizen.

For some background on the institution itself, he Pentagon is known for being the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. It is also known for being the largest office building in the world, with over 6.5 million square feet of floor space. With such a prestigious size and task, the Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia, oversees a wide range of government activities and information. Some of their work is controversial, while other actions are standard procedure to keep the government and its bureaucracy functioning like a well-oiled machine.

But still, with such a large sum, where does the money actually go? What projects does it fund? And how do the American people benefit? While certain projects are still undisclosed due to a matter of national security, certain programs and spending decisions are outlined to help give an idea to the American people of where this money goes, what investments it covers, and how it helps shape the country. Here is a brief breakdown of the programs we know about in regards to the new budget, and how they contribute to American safety.

Modernization of Programs

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One of the main priorities listed in the new Pentagon budget proposal is the need for increased federal research and development. Innovation and modernization have been attributed to the Department of Defense since the beginning of the Cold War. Yale University recently released a Faculty Viewpoint article focusing on how the DoD was a prime funder for the early growth of Silicon Valley, as well as a recent technology hub located in northern Virginia. Paul Bracken, a Yale School of Management Professor, expressed that the need for electronic intelligence drove much of their own Research and Development work, leading to a range of new technologies including the integrated circuit, opening the way for computers, the advancements of satellites, and, effectively, every piece of electronics in either military or civilian use.

He also outlined the National Security Agency’s system of operations which sets up a diversified management system, allowing the NSA to work directly with a variety of small companies, creating multiple avenues of advancements whether it be in weapons, single component algorithms, or services and processes. The mechanics of multiple smaller agencies is what also contributed to the later Venture Capital firms that set up and funded different private sectors within Silicon Valley, diversifying innovation while separating channels of communication. This unique approach resulted in an increased security benefit from any unexpected breaches or leaks of information.

Implementation of New Technologies

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The discovery and resulting implementation of new military technologies increased defense capabilities through the advancement of militarized weapons, ultimately resulting in a more pacifistic-by-proxy approach to dealing with other foreign military operations. Some of these new developments provided through increased funding have resulted in the recapitalization of the strategic ballistic missile submarine fleet. Another implementation was variety of new long-range strike technologies such as Hypersonic Weapons which serve to incorporate the speed of a ballistic missile with the maneuvering capabilities of a cruise missile. The development of High-Energy Laser Technologies was also a recent advancement that was designed and tested to not only increase the accuracy against evasively maneuvering targets, but to provide multi-engagement and rapid retargeting capabilities, minimizing any previous instances of collateral damage.

Optimization of Military Branches

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The re-optimization of military branches serves to divest certain legacy systems as a means of redirecting resources to higher priority efforts. While this initial stance has been vaguely reinterpreted by both political sides to indicate a transition to major cuts to the nuclear force, the document refuted any speculation.

“While the administration is reviewing the U.S. nuclear posture, the discretionary request supports ongoing nuclear modernization programs while ensuring that these efforts are sustainable.” Instead, the fiscal plan is said to optimize Navy shipbuilding and focus on the development and research of conventional strike effectiveness and proficiency, something the Army, Air Force, and Navy are all individually pursuing.

The military optimization plan also serves to include adjustments to military readiness, additional support for military families, and countering any emerging biological threats. The later of which includes a series of climate resilience and energy efficient alternatives. This is a deviation from previous policies, indicating that the Department of Defense is beginning to acknowledge the more existential threat of climate change and its resulting complications.

“It is vital to national security that U.S. military installations, and the mission critical capabilities these instillations support, are resilient to climate-induced extreme weather”, the document stated. “The discretionary request supports efforts to plan for and mitigate impacts of climate change and improve the resilience of DoD facilities and operations.”

A more detailed version and outline of the proposed budget is expected to be released in late May or early June of 2021. It will provide further analysis of what exactly the $715 billion budget will be used for and how it will impact the safety and security of American citizens.

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Sources: TheHill, Bloomberg, SCMP, NationalDefenseMagazine, WashingtonTimes, WashingtonExaminer, DefenseNews, Stripes, HuffPost, CommonDreams, KhanAcademy, Slate, MDAA, YaleInsights, GAO, History, SpaceIQ, Census.gov, WealthyGorilla, TeslaUniverse, TheBalance

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