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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Trump's defense budget hits bipartisan themes

It is hard to criticize the rhetoric around President Trump’s 2020 defense budget proposal.

There is a focus on space, cyber, multi-domain warfare, artificial intelligence and readiness. Russia and China are held up as our greatest adversaries as they develop their own military capabilities to challenge U.S. dominance.

Trump is asking for $718 billion for fiscal 2020, a 4.9-percent increase over 2019. That includes $164 billion in overseas contingency funds, which for some reason don’t count against how the deficit is calculated or against Budget Control Act spending caps.

Unlike what I wrote yesterday where I primarily focused on the civilian side of the budget, defense spending has more bipartisan support. The president can expect to get much of what he is asking for. Minus the $3.6 billion in defense money for the border wall.

There are areas of disagreement, of course.

Space is one of the major areas of investment. Reasonable people can disagree on whether creation of Space Force as part of the Air Force is the best strategy but few would disagree with the budget’s emphasis on space as an emerging warfighting domain. The budget also has cyber in the mix.

The budget asks for $14.1 billion for space, which includes $1.8 billion for the Global Positioning System follow-on. There is $72.4 million to the new U.S. Space Force headquarters.

To digress for a moment, but I’m a skeptic about the need and effectiveness for a Space Force. The trend over the last decade has been to more and more joint operations. A Space Force seems to run counter to that.

Space is important to the Army and Navy, as well as the Air Force. So why not further develop the Space Command as another combatant command that draws on all of the services? There is a Cyber Command, which is a combatant command.

The budget proposal seeks $9.6 billion for cyber, which includes $3.7 billion for offensive and defensive cyberspace operations. There also is $5.4 billion for securing networks, systems and information.

Artificial intelligence pops up in several places as a technology that will improve decision making and readiness. The budget includes $927 million for work on the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and Project Maven.

But one area that gets very little mention is the cloud. The high-profile JEDI cloud infrastructure contract is not mentioned anywhere and the only mention of cloud is the request for $61.9 million to modernize “DOD’s multi-cloud environment.”

I won’t read too much into that but it is worth noting. We’ll continue to track other DOD budget documents as they emerge to see where that $10 billion contract falls.

The budget includes a lot of talk about achieving greater performance and affordability. The administration expects these efforts to save $7.7 billion. This will be done through business process improvement, business systems improvement, policy reforms, and better acquisitions.

The key takeaways: emphasis on cyber, space and AI, plus better business processes. These will touch a large swath of DOD, so even before this budget comes close to passing, you should be using as a blueprint to talk to your customers.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Mar 12, 2019 at 12:18 PM

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