According to President Obama’s 2016 budget blueprint, he will be asking Congress to break through spending caps and allocate about $561 billion for Pentagon expenditures, about $38 billion more than is currently allowed under the law. However, there are more than one ways of looking at this development.
1) Domestically, Obama who is seen to be soft on defense-related issues, with this overarching move may be trying to emphasize his government’s focus on defense especially in the run up to the elections.
2) Increase in defense budget also signals urgency to take pre-emptive measures to safeguard national and international security especially with the rise of ISIS and burgeoning of security threats emerging out of Middle East and North Africa.
3) It is also worth noting that the budget proposal seeks $14 billion for cybersecurity efforts which is about $1 billion more than in previous budgets. The increase shows the priorities of the US which is clearly shifting from treating cyber warfare as secondary threat to primary one.
4) Increase in defense spending also sends a message across to NATO countries, which the US has been calling on to increase their defense budgets in light of growing turmoil in the region vis-a-vis Ukraine conflict and Russian involvement. Interestingly, just days earlier it was announced that the US was ending operations at an air base in Britain and handing it and 14 other sites in Europe back to their home governments due to budgetary constraints.
6) It also means that the US is looking to acquire many advanced weapon systems, focused on air and naval power. The US is also looking to upgrade stealth jets from fifth generation to sixth generation as China unveiled its J-31 stealth fighter to compete with the U.S.-made F-35 stealth aircraft last year. China is strengthening its standing as an arms producer and that should be a clear motivation for the US to ramp up military capability for not just national security but also to continue leading arms exports market.
7) Possible need for increase in the budget also reflects Obama’s focus on deeper defense engagement in Asia. The Japanese cabinet this month, approved a record 4.98 trillion yen or $42bn budget for defense spending, amid a long-running maritime dispute with China.Tokyo’s new budget represents a 2.8% rise from the previous fiscal year. Despite Japan’s economic woes, it is continuing to increase its defense spending year by year.This shows the growing uneasiness in Asia with rising China, and hence seeking a greater involvement from the US.