The Biden administration delivered its FY25 budget request to Capitol Hill today and it includes $895.2 billion for national defense coffers. (US Army/Sgt. 1st Class Marisol Walker)

WASHINGTON — Even as fiscal 2024 appropriations languish in lawmakers’ hands, the White House today sent Capitol Hill its budget request for FY25, with $895.2 billion in discretionary funds directed towards national defense.

While crafting the request, the Biden administration had constraints: it was working within the budget caps lawmakers approved when they passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) last year. That means the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) portion hovers around $849.8 billion, or about a 1 percent increase over the FY24 request. In real terms, factoring in inflation, department leaders were forced to trim $10 billion dollars from the previous year’s plan. 

“You’re gonna see a lot of continuity in this strategy, priorities, goals, programs [and] the topline for that matter: So, continuity more so than surprise,” a senior defense official told reporters March 8 during a budget preview event at the Pentagon. 

“It is an increase over last year [but] it is not enough of an increase to cover inflation and that, again, would presumably not have been a surprise to anybody who drafted the caps or voted for the caps in the FRA: inflation has to come down quite a bit, but it hasn’t come down to 1 percent, so there will be an issue there,” the official later added. The tentative plan is to deal with the cuts and then get the department back “on course” with higher funding levels in FY26 and beyond. 

The department has not yet released its FY25 justification documents detailing the exact areas and programs it wants to cut to help pay the bills, but the defense official noted that almost $2 billion in savings comes, in part, from personnel, including trimming about 5,700 spots from end strength. In total, the plan calls for just over 2 million uniformed personnel next year, with the Army coming in at 943,100, Air Force with 494,700, Navy with 390,000, Marine Corps with 204,800, and the Space Force with 9,800.

Congressional Inaction Impacts Spending 

Additional insights into DoD’s FY25 spending proposal will emerge over the coming days and weeks as more documents are released, and as officials make their way to Capitol Hill to testify before lawmakers. 

However, while the figures presented today provide insight into the priorities for the White House and the services, at this point the plan is hypothetical, dependent on several moving parts in Congress — or, more accurately, parts that aren’t moving.

Lawmakers have not yet passed an FY24 defense spending bill, and since that new fiscal year kicked off on Oct. 1, 2023, the DoD has been operating on a string of continuing resolutions that maintain its funding at FY23 levels. A separate $105 billion supplemental spending request that includes military aid for Ukraine and Israel, and supports US activities for both, has also been in a standstill for months on the hill. 

Although it remains unclear if or when Congress will pass either of those bills, DoD inked its FY25 request based on the assumption both will be approved. If they aren’t, or are greatly altered, that will upend this latest request. 

“We don’t start with a clean sheet of paper each year,” the senior defense official said.

“We kind of depend on having [that] ‘24 bill finish and finish in a way that looks a lot like what we asked for. Otherwise, we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board on a couple of fronts,” they later added.

Additionally, the department did not factor in the cost of continuing to support Ukraine, Israel or operations in the Red Sea in its FY25 spending request, which means it will likely need another supplemental spending bill next year. 

As just one example, the Navy has been expending a lot of ordnance in the Red Sea in recent months as it bats down incoming threats, a situation that has no clear end date. Rear Adm. Ben Reynolds, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, told reporters that as his service built its portion of the budget anticipating another supplemental request to backfill those rounds.

“We can’t say at this moment what parameters would be included for a supplemental, but the ‘25 budget that is being presented does not anticipate the current expenditure of missiles in the Red Sea, or those additional operations costs,” Reynolds added. 

By The Numbers

Although so much is in flux, at least as it stands and according to briefing slides, the Pentagon’s FY25 budget request includes $167.5 billion for weapon procurement, $143.2 billion for research and development efforts, $339.6 billion for operations and maintenance, $181 billion for military personnel, $17.5 billion for military construction and $45.5 billion for other programs.

When it comes to emerging tech, those numbers include $17.2 billion for science and technology, $1.8 billion for artificial intelligence, $1.4 billion for combined joint all domain command and control (CJADC2), $450 million for Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve initiative (RDER) and $144 million for the Office of Strategic Capital. 

As part of proposed spending under the “integrated deterrence” umbrella, the department seeks $49.2 billion for nuclear modernization, $28.4 billion for missile defeat and defense, and $9.8 billion for hypersonic and long-range subsonic missiles longer-range weapons. Space and space-based systems receive $33.7 billion, to include $4.7 billion for the development of Resilient Missile Warning/Missile Tracking architectures.

“This budget procures a lethal survivable mix of networked long-range weapons and maximizes procurement of critical maritime strike capabilities that directly address the priority national security challenges,” a senior military official explained. “These investments grow the department’s… [jet fighter] capability and field operational multi-domain hypersonic capabilities beginning in the mid-2020s.”

Also included in the total budget request is $33.7 billion for “vital space capabilities” with $14.5 billion for cyberspace activities.

This new request funds the Air Force with $188.1 billion, with dollars for scaled-back buys of both the F-35 and F-15EX fighter jets. The Navy’s $257.6 billion topline budget includes $8.2 billion for Virginia Class Submarines, with plans to buy one next year. The Army’s $185.9 billion portion redirects canceled Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) dollars to other aviation initiatives and includes funding to field two additional Mid-Range Capability battalions next year, a move bringing the total up to three battalions. As for the newest service, the Space Force, it’s portion of the request sits at $29.4 billion.

The request also includes $9.9 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and $2.9 billion for the Europe Deterrence Initiative, two pots of regional-specific money that have proven popular with Congress. 

Mixing It Up

While continuity is being touted as an FY25 budget theme, officials did highlight a few changes and areas of note:

In FY24, the services requested that seven programs receive authority and/or dollars to support multi-year munitions buys. The department’s FY25 budget assumes that lawmakers will approve those, and it has budgeted accordingly. If lawmakers don’t signoff and approve the funds, the services may need to trim the number of those weapons they purchase next year to account for the higher per unit price point. Additionally, the department is not asking to initiate any new multi-year buys in FY25, but to only pursue the ones it already requested. 
When Congress approved the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act, it included a provision enabling the administration to send $1 billion military in aid to Taiwan each year via the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which takes weapons from existing Pentagon stocks and ships them overseas. For the first time, the FY25 budget request includes $500 million to replenish US stocks. Ideally, [we] want something closer to $1 billion but we have a $10 billion cap reduction that I talked about, so $500 [million] we thought was a good start,” the senior defense official said. While the administration is moving forward with this plan for Taiwan, they are not requesting similar dollars inside the base budget to backfill weapons sent to Ukraine. In order to do that, lawmakers would need to approve similar legislation to that it inked out in 2023 for Taiwan. 
For the past couple of decades, the Missile Defense Agency participated in DoD’s budget roll out briefings. However, Inside Defense first reported that will not happen this year. While MDA’s budget is “no more or less classified” than it previously was, the senior defense official noted that there are other defense agencies with bigger budgets that don’t brief reporters during the budget roll out process. “This just puts them more in line with many other peers,” the official added. 
After the FY24 budget was submitted to Congress, the Pentagon unveiled its new Replicator initiative aimed at quickly scaling and fielding different drones. The department is remaining mum about just which platforms it selected for the first tranche and, as of now, will not detail which ones have been selected or provide a line item in the budget request.

Breaking Defense’s Justin Katz contributed to this reporting.