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3% payraise for military in 2021?

New budget gives troops another boost

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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Monday requested a three percent boost to troop pay in 2021, plus its largest-ever investment in innovation and next-generation weapons as part of a $705.4 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2021, as the United States eyes increased military capabilities by its great-power competitors, China and Russia.

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The Defense Department unveiled its 2021 budget request as part of the White House’s $4.8 trillion federal spending proposal for next year that would cut social programs while investing heavily in national defense. The proposal would provide a total of $740.5 billion for defense spending, which includes the Pentagon’s budget as well as funding for nuclear programs within the Department of Energy.

The request includes funds to build up the military’s newest service, the U.S. Space Force, to buy dozens of aircraft, ships and land vehicles, and a proposed 3% boost in troops’ pay. It would represent a slight increase to the $704.6 billion that Congress provided the Pentagon for fiscal year 2020. Lawmakers also provided the Pentagon an extra $8 billion of emergency funding this year to rebuild installations hit by natural disasters in recent years, including hurricanes and major floods.

While the proposed budget largely looks to the future, it provides funds for ongoing combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and training missions in Europe — all at lower levels than in fiscal year 2020. The budget predicts smaller troops presences worldwide, presuming a reduction of nearly 8,000 troops to operations around the globe.

But the underlying theme of the request is to prepare the military to fight the next war that the Pentagon’s top planners anticipate, which is a major conflict against a nation-state with similar military capabilities to the United States, senior defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Friday. It is the second consecutive budget crafted based on the Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy, which shifted the department’s primary focus to great-power competition with Russia and China over the threat of international terrorist organizations that the United States has fought for nearly two decades.

That means new technology. The request includes $106.6 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation of the modern weapons systems required to fight such a war, including $3.2 billion meant to hasten the development of hypersonic weapons, $1.5 billion for the development of 5G communications technology that officials said is critical to ensuring systems and troops can share information rapidly, $1.7 billion earmarked for automation research, and another $800 million for Pentagon organizations developing artificial intelligence capabilities.

It also means strengthening the three-legged U.S. nuclear deterrent, which the officials touted as the nation’s foundation for preventing a major attack by another power.  The proposal seeks a 20% boost in spending on upgrades to the Pentagon’s aging nuclear triad and pouring nearly $30 billion into ongoing projects. Those projects include $4.4 billion for the Navy’s future Columbia-class, ballistic-missile submarines, which is scheduled to begin construction next year, $2.8 billion for the Air Force’s future B-21 Raider bomber, which is scheduled to begin flying in 2022, and $1.5 billion for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the replacement for the decades old Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, expected to be completed in the late 2020s. It also includes some $110 million toward a program to make some versions of the Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II fighter jets nuclear capable. That is expected to occur by fiscal year 2024.

The budget also invests heavily in space and cyber capabilities. It includes $18 billion for space, which would grow the Space Force, improve space-based missile warning capabilities, improve GPS systems, reduce the risk of satellite communications jamming and conduct three space launches. It would also spend nearly $10 billion on cyber programs to improve offensive and defensive capabilities and bolster cybersecurity for Defense Department networks, systems and information.

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