The Senate Armed Services Committee press release is short on details as it describes the establishment of a Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI). What they do tell us is they are authorizing up to $1.4 billion for the program. This dollar figure is apparently the sum of the President’s FY21 Budget Request for all Indo/Pacific requirements, plus a little extra — $188.6 million.
Once the detailed report language and the tables are available, we’ll take a look at that additional money to see if it is directed to specific procurement or research and development programs. As often happens, the enthusiasm for broad new programs is often stoked by the defense contractors who will directly profit from them. More on that when we can look at the core documents.
Interestingly, the SASC also states they will authorize $5.5 billion for PDI in Fiscal Year 2022 and directs the Secretary of Defense to create a spending plan for that much funding. This is a bad precedent on a couple of levels: first, it purports to tie the hands of a future Congress and, second, it attempts to mandate a portion of the FY22 President’s Budget Request. Bad process begets bad policy.
Finally, the available information doesn’t indicate how PDI will be funded, from base budget or the magical, deficit-bending, Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account? We have our suspicions and will write more when we know more. Suffice to say the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) is funded through OCO. If the United States wants to convince our allies in the Indo/Pacific region that we are serious about countering Chinese influence, a program funded through OCO sends the wrong signal. OCO is scheduled to drop from this year’s request of $69 billion to $10 billion in two years. New programs that haven’t made it to the base budget request will have a hard time justifying their existence.
Again, bad process begets bad policy.