WASHINGTON — President Obama is asking the new Republican Congress for a base defense budget of $534 billion in 2016, the Pentagon said on Monday in its annual budget release, exceeding by $35 billion the mandatory across-the-board reductions known as sequestration.
Separately, Mr. Obama is asking for an additional $51 billion to fund operations in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, as well as the continued American military presence in Afghanistan. The administration said next year’s overall military spending was a continuation of efforts to take into account the fiscal reality of government austerity and the political reality of a president who pledged to end two costly and exhausting land wars. The result, administration officials say, will be a military that continues to be capable of defeating any adversary but is too small for protracted foreign occupations.
But the budget also demonstrates a Defense Department that remains determined to invest in ambitious next-generation capabilities and big-ticket items, including naval ships, submarines, and bombers and other aircraft. The Pentagon is also seeking funding for more of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, built by Lockheed Martin Corp.
The 2016 budget is notable because for all of the talk about how the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will reduce spending on conflicts abroad, the Defense Department is still seeking additional funding for the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Defense officials hope that the issues that emerged around the world in 2014 — from the Islamic State to Russian aggression in Ukraine to the fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa — which all required an American military response in some way, will lead to an overall acceptance that the United States must continue to invest heavily in the Defense Department unless it is going to retreat globally.
In short, defense officials want to erase the idea that the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will automatically lead to smaller Pentagon budgets.
“The geopolitical events of the past year only reinforce the need to resource DoD at the president’s requested funding level as opposed to current law,” the Pentagon said in its budget release.
The release said that a return to mandatory across-the-board spending cuts “would be irresponsible and dangerous, resulting in a force too small and ill equipped to respond to the full range of potential threats to the nation.”