The Pentagon released its fiscal year 2025 funding request, officially beginning one of the most chaotic budget seasons in recent memory.

The top line for national defense is $895.2 billion, and the Pentagon’s share of that will be just under $850 billion. These figures are lower than projected in the request for fiscal 2024, due to a deal struck to avoid a government default.

That deal capped spending for the upcoming fiscal year, amounting to a small drop in defense funding when adjusted for inflation. Hence the inevitable question leading up to this year’s request was what accounts would have to slim down. The answer is mainly those for procurement and research, development, testing and evaluation. The previous year’s ask for those accounts was $315 billion. This year’s is $310.7 billion, and that doesn’t account for inflation.

An inside look at the Department of Defense's budget request for next year- from program cuts to barracks improvements. Our reporters weigh in.

Divided out, the total includes $167.5 billion for procurement and $143.2 billion for RDT&E for FY25. Among the weapons systems trimmed to reach that lower-than-planned number are a Virginia-Class nuclear-powered submarine and a slew of F-35 fighter jets. The request for munitions also fell slightly — to $29.8 billion from $30.6 billion in FY24.

Every year’s budget request is a planned, but not final, roadmap that adjusts to direction from Congress. This year’s is even less certain, since the FY24 budget cycle has yet to close and could force more detours.

Congress has yet to pass an FY24 defense budget, now almost six months into the government fiscal year, which started Oct. 1. For the Pentagon, this presents two major risks: a full-year continuing resolution and the threat of a sequester. According to last year’s default deal, if lawmakers fail to pass all of their annual spending bills by April 30, there will be an automatic government-wide spending cut of 1%.

At the same time, the Pentagon is also trying to plan around a mammoth national security supplemental that’s also frozen in Congress. The bill contains billions in aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan along with money for the American defense industry. The department is counting on that money in part to continue support its partners in need during wartime and to pay back some of its own bills. Those include a more costly force presence in Europe during the war in Ukraine and some of the cost incurred by U.S. Central Command after war broke out in the Middle East.

The department has about a $10 billion bill outstanding to replenish munitions sent to its partners around the world, said a senior defense official briefing reporters on the budget.

“The big issue before us is: Is Congress going to pass the supplemental or not?” the official said.

Last week, at a conference hosted by the defense analysts McAleese and Associates in Washington, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Rob Wittman, R-Va, said that the House wouldn’t act on that supplemental until its other spending bills have passed.

And while the Pentagon hasn’t drafted another supplemental request in this budget, it may well need one this year to pay for its bills being totaled in Europe and the Middle East.

“That would be a later decision,” the official said.

A blip or a trend?

Because of the confusion around this fiscal year’s budget, the department had to make careful assumptions about how Congress will act in the near future.

One example is aid to Taiwan. For the first time, the official said, the FY25 budget includes funding to replace weapons sent to Taiwan, starting at $500 million. The official said the Pentagon would have preferred to make that closer to $1 billion — the yearly amount its allowed to donate — but was more conservative because of this year’s spending caps.

The $500 million will go to Taiwan regardless of whether Congress gives the department extra money to do so — like a vacation that would come out of one’s saving account if they didn’t get a raise. There’s money for such a drawdown in the supplemental, and the department is framing its own commitment as a gesture to Congress.

“We, knowing that the authorization [to donate kit to Taiwan] is there and wanting to show that we agree with it, have made the decision to put some money in whether or not the supplemental passes,” the official said.

Another case is the Pentagon’s account for munitions. The previous budget requested money to issue a set of seven long-term contracts for precision weapons in an effort to give the defense industry a steadier long-term commitment. This budget assumes that Congress will approve those five-year contracts, the official said, and hence doesn’t ask for any more.

“With almost everything [we are] not trying to guess exactly what they’re going to do but have predicated that they’re ... going to largely approve what we asked for,” the official said.

Perhaps the biggest assumption is the department’s expectations for its budget in future years. The slide used to show their estimates is nearly the same as the previous year’s, except instead of a steady rise from FY24 on it has a divot that reflects this year’s spending caps.

But the ceiling only lasts one year, and the Pentagon plans to return to funding projections from before the default deal going forward. In other words, the department considers its FY25 top line a blip not a trend.

“We don’t have any insight into what that next two-year [debt ceiling] deal might look like, so that could get revisited,” the official said. “But our message is that we need to get back on plan.”

Noah Robertson is the Pentagon reporter at Defense News. He previously covered national security for the Christian Science Monitor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and government from the College of William & Mary in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia.

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