– Drag fight over defense billions in the United States

– Drag fight over defense billions in the United States
– Drag fight over defense billions in the United States

In May, the US defense budget for 2022 will be adopted by Congress. The competition between the branches of defense is fiercer than we have seen in recent years, and the disagreement between Republicans and Democrats is great and the fronts steep. There is also great disagreement within the democratic camp. Drakampen applies to both the size of the total budget and the distribution of branches of defense. This year’s defense budget is around $ 740 billion, which is about 40 percent of the world’s total military defense spending.

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There is an enormous purchasing power in the domestic American market in such a large budget, and correspondingly large ripple effects for business and jobs. This is sought to be used for political profiling for all that is worthwhile by the members of Congress, and is often expressed as taking a stand on specific programs and projects in the branches of defense. From the branches of defense, one policy document after another comes to Congress to substantiate needs.

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Republicans are pushing for budget growth of 3-5 percent, while the left wing of the Democratic Party wants cuts. Ten percent cut is Senator Bernie Sanders stated goal. No matter where the balance point will be to get next and next year’s defense budgets through in Congress, there will be dissatisfaction in both the dominant political parties. The Sanders wing will use savings on defense to improve the conditions for the most disadvantaged in society. Republicans have no sense of such policy; Tax breaks seem to be a kind of political panacea in that camp.

Even in the world’s largest economy, there is a limit to how far the elastic can be stretched.

Even in the world’s largest economy, there is a limit to how far the elastic can be stretched. The gigantic support packages for corona-related measures and the recently presented plan by President Joe Biden for upgrading the United States’ dilapidated infrastructure and investing in climate-friendly change come on top of an already very strained national economy. It may seem that the battle for appropriations for various urgent purposes will end with flat defense budgets in the years to come, which in practice means cuts. The US Army will notice this most with the inflationary effect of about one and a quarter million people on the payrolls. Modernization projects have suffered over the last 10-15 years as a result of costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The worst example is the US Army’s prestige program “Future Combat System” which cost approx. $ 20 billion before it was terminated without having been applied.

The leadership of the US Army is now begging for three years with “solid budgets” in order to be able to carry out the required modernization and restructuring.

China’s military growth

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It is primarily the growth of China’s military capacity in all domains; at sea, on land, in the air and in space – conventional and nuclear – which is the focus of all branches of defense. The Arctic is also involved, but not with the same emphasis. We have seen how the first changes affect Norway’s security and defense policy, and more will come. For us, it is the reorganization of the US Marine Corps’ (USMCs) organization and combat concept that came first. It was the foresighted chief of the USMC, General David H. Berger, who saw the drawing and took action to strengthen the relevance of the branch of defense into the future within a tighter economy.

The corps will be slimmed down with 12,000 soldiers in the next few years, tanks and traditional artillery and bombers will be removed and the number of fighter jets in the squadrons will be reduced; comes in long-range precision weapons, drones, unmanned vessels, advanced communication and target detection systems, electronic warfare capabilities, as well as multi-skilled soldiers in small units with the ability to hide themselves and their weapons at low electronic profile. General Berger was out in time to lay some horse heads in front of the US Army who want to bet on much of the same. On March 23, the Chief of Staff of the US Army, General James McConville, presented the document “Army Multi-Domain Transformation”. It describes how the branch of defense should be modernized to be superior at all times to the states that challenge the US military (read: China and Russia), primarily to deter, but also to win if there are acts of war.


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An important new element is to deploy small units, with the same characteristics as what the USMC is focusing on, far ahead as “inside force”, specifically described as deployment on islands in a chain from Indonesia via the Philippines to Japan, within a geography that China has declared as “Anti-Access / Area Denial” in its defense plans.

How the United States will make the outlined concept work in practice, when the affected countries must be assumed not to want to provoke China by participating in such a concept, is not stated in the document. The head of the US Air Force Global Strike Command, General Timothy Ray, has criticized the concept in strong words, reproduced in “Defense News” on April 2. He believes that the concept is costly, overlapping and foolish (“Honestly – I think the idea is stupid”). The address is probably Congress. While the Army and Air Force subsequently try to smooth over this embarrassing intermesso, the commander of the USMC sends a letter to his political superiors with a well-crafted plan for adjustment along the lines mentioned above. It will be implemented by 2030, and without the need for increased budget limits. Elegant by General Berger.

What significance it may have for the USMC that big brother the US Army follows in the way described is not easy to predict. This may mean that US Marines will have a clearer and less debatable role on NATO’s northern flank and in the Arctic region; but it could also mean that the tough budget war unfolding in Washington DC will cause the USMC to eventually lose ground. It may point in that direction when the US Army on March 16 (US Army Public Affairs) presented another policy document entitled “Regaining Arctic Dominance”. Here is an outline of how the defense branch should “generate Arctic-capable forces ready to compete and win in extended operations in extreme cold weather and high-altitude environments”.

China and Russia

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It is Russia in particular, but also the growing interest and presence on the part of China in the Arctic region that must be confronted. The first test of how the branches of defense will fare in an interaction in the Arctic according to the new guidelines comes in the exercise “Northern Edge” which starts on 3 May with approx. 10,000 soldiers from all branches of defense, 300 aircraft and units from the new Space Force.

While most things are open about this in the United States, silence and secrecy seem to be an important part of the authorities’ security policy strategy here at home.

If the Ministry of Defense could shed some light on what is being negotiated with the Americans about in the so-called modernization of the arms aid agreement from 1950, we might have learned something about how our own defense can and should be affected. These are new combat concepts with the introduction of long-range precision weapons, drones and unmanned aircraft and vessels, new navigation and communication systems (independent of GPS), robotics and artificial intelligence and much more. While most things are open about this in the United States, silence and secrecy seem to be an important part of the authorities’ security policy strategy here at home.

In some areas, both China and Russia are ahead of the United States in terms of applied military technology, such as hypersonic missiles and artificial intelligence.

A lot will happen during a ten-year period that creates changes in the security policy landscape Norway is in. The challenge is clear in the day before the new Defense Commission.

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