WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will preview the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2017 budget request at a Feb. 2 event, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday.
Details of the event are apparently being worked out, with no guarantee it will occur in the Pentagon briefing room.
“I can confirm the secretary will have something to say about the budget on February 2nd, yes,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said Wednesday. “I can’t give you more details than that. He’ll make those comments here in Washington.”
Indications are that Carter will not be sharing much in the way of hard details about the budget proposal, scheduled to be formally unveiled a week later. News of the planned briefing was first reported by Reuters.
However, some information has already leaked out about the budget, including a decision by the US Air Force to slow its retirement plans for the A-10 Warthog. That retirement effort has been heavily criticized on the Hill.
There have also been indications the F-35 buy may be slowed to free up funding for other programs.
Experts and analysts around Washington have indicated this budget will likely focus more on current fights — driven primarily by the Islamic State group, commonly known as ISIS or ISIL, in Syria and Iraq, as well as a resurgent Russia — at the cost of future modernization.
However, Frank Kendall, the top acquisitions official at the Pentagon, said in December he is prioritizing the protection of science and technology accounts in order to continue to grow the next-generation technologies needed to keep an edge over near-peer competitors such as Russia and China.
Speaking Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, defense budgetary expert Todd Harrison told an audience that the administration is likely to stick to the funding levels put forth under last year’s budget agreement between Congress and the White House.
The wildcard, he noted, is the use of the overseas contingency operations (OCO) fund. The administration and Congress have clashed over the use of the money, with Congress showing a willingness to use OCO for a broader range of requirements than the White House.
However, under the budget agreement, there is now a floor for OCO set at $59 billion. Because of that, Harrison noted, the Pentagon may push more programs under the OCO umbrella.
One such potential program is the European Reassurance Initiative, under which the US has conducted training exercises with nations close to Russia’s border. Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord said in December he expects that fund to see a “significant” increase in this budget.