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McCain Proposes Dramatic Spending Boost for Defense, Including Space

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-Jan-2017
Updated: 17-Jan-2017 11:23 PM

Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) has released a blueprint for a dramatic boost in defense spending.   His plan, Restoring American Power, calls for repealing the law that created sequestration and adding $430 billion for defense spending over 5 years above the amounts proposed by President Obama.  He believes space programs "must be a priority" for some of that additional funding.

McCain's plan covers defense spending at the Department of Defense as well as nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy (DOE).

He casts blame widely for inadequate defense budgets and "abuse" of the off-budget Overseas Contingency Operations account.  Republicans and Democrats, the White House and Congress are all at fault for the current situation in his view.  The purpose of his plan is to fix it, beginning with repeal of the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) that set budget caps for discretionary spending that he sees as the root of the problem.  Recounting how the BCA caps and the Damoclean sword of sequestration to enforce them came to exist -- after Congress could not agree on another method for reining in the federal deficit -- he states that the "havoc ... wreaked on each of the military services is still being felt to this day." Repealing the BCA and increasing defense spending "must be" the "highest priority for the 115th Congress."

He proposes a $430 billion increase over 5 years above the levels in President Obama's FY2017 budget request (including projections for future years), which he acknowledged was itself $100 billion above the BCA caps. Congress has not completed action on that request.  DOD, DOE and other departments and agencies that are part of discretionary spending are currently funded by a Continuing Resolution through April 28.

The additional funds he is proposing are for two broad priorities:  modernization and regaining capacity.  Regarding national security space activities, McCain asserts that DOD "has finally awoken to the reality that we must invest in the next generation of space capabilities....Over the next five years, space must be a priority for additional funding to ensure that the United States maintains its space superiority and has the capabilities and capacity to deter and defend our critical space assets in future conflicts."

He also sees the need for investing in a "space-based sensor architecture" for missile defense as a potential alternative to "costly ground-based radars."   Overall, for missile defense he advocates development of "boost phase defense programs, directed energy, hypervelocity projectiles, high-power microwaves, battle management using learning machines, and space-based capabilities."

The report includes several tables outlining where McCain wants to spend the additional funds he proposes for FY2018-2022.  The figures are increases above President Obama's FY2017 request, but the breakdown does not follow the format of that request so it is not possible to make apples-to-apples comparisons. The extract below from a table on page 28 of the report shows the proposed increases for space (as well as cyber and missile defense).


Extract from table on page 28 of SASC Chairman John McCain's January 2017 report "Restoring American Power."  That report does not say so, but the figures likely are shown in thousands, where "$500,000" represents $500 million, for example, which is commonly done in budget charts of this nature.


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