By C. Todd Lopez
The U.S. military is doing better today than it was four years ago based on several metrics, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist said.
“We are in a very different place than we were four years ago,” Norquist told lawmakers yesterday during a hearing before the House Budget Committee. “The readiness of our forces are up, the quantity of munitions they have is up, (and) the training level is up.”
Norquist told lawmakers, specifically, that the Defense Department has increased the number of ready brigade combat teams by 33 percent and raised the readiness of the Air Force’s lead pacing squadrons by 35 percent.
While the military is traditionally thought of as fighting on land, in the air and on the sea, Norquist told lawmakers that space and cyberspace are two new domains where the DoD has made significant investments over the past three years. The department established the U.S. Space Force, for instance, elevated U.S. Cyber Command to a unified combatant command and created the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.
The Defense Department’s fiscal year 2021 budget request of $704.5 billion is the next step in implementing the National Defense Strategy, Norquist said.
The focus for the budget request, he said, is on all domain operations and preparing for future challenges. He said the budget focuses on recapitalization of nuclear deterrence capabilities, strengthening homeland missile defense and expanding investments in technologies — such as hypersonic weapons, directed energy, 5G, microelectronics, artificial intelligence and autonomous platforms.
When it comes to getting the FY2021 budget passed, Norquist told the committee how damaging continuing resolutions are to the department and its ability to operate. First, he said, continuing resolutions prevent the start of new programs.
“If we have a technology that the department recommends … we can’t start it on 1 October. We have to wait,” he said.
However, the real risk of the continuing resolution, Norquist said, is that federal agencies and the DoD get used to them and make adjustments.
“It just moves its contracts to the spring and builds a six-month … delay because it just assumes it will not get the budget on time,” he said. “So, in a government where speed and efficiency is always a challenge … the continuing resolution pushes things to be slower and more inefficient and wasteful.”