WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — The Pentagon will seek a 35 percent increase in funding for the fight against Islamic State in its next budget, bringing the request for U.S. military efforts against the terrorist group to $7.5 billion, according to a defense official.
The $583 billion in defense spending that President Barack Obama will propose for fiscal 2017 also will include $3.4 billion for European-based security initiatives in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive moves in Ukraine, up from about $789 million this year, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity before the budget is sent to Congress on Feb. 9.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter will outline his priorities for the defense budget, the only one he will get an opportunity to shape before Obama leaves office, in a speech Tuesday to the Economic Club of Washington. Working within the constraints of the two-year budget deal reached by Obama and Congress, the proposal will call for $524 billion for the base defense budget and $58.8 billion in war-fighting funds that will include the effort against Islamic State and the European initiative.
Carter also plans to say Tuesday that the Navy’s budget will place increased emphasis on underseas systems, the official said. Last month, Carter ordered the Navy to buy fewer surface ships so it can spend more on advanced technology, such as improved munitions, F-35 jets and upgraded systems for electronic warfare.
While administration officials have said the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against Islamic State has reduced the territory held by the jihadists, they also have acknowledged difficult struggles ahead in helping local forces recapture the group’s strongholds, Raqaa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. The administration also is deciding how aggressively to attack Islamic State contingents that are multiplying in Libya and Afghanistan.
The U.S. campaign of airstrikes, trainers and advisers cost the Pentagon $5.8 billion through Dec. 31, or an average of $11.4 million a day. Small contingents of special-operations forces have now been sent into Iraq and Syria with the ability to conduct raids. The proposed funding increase for the Islamic State fight was reported earlier Monday by Reuters.
About $1.5 billion in the war-fighting budget request for fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1, would restock munitions dropped during the campaign against Islamic State; 35,000 munitions have been expended since operations began in August 2014.
While the European initiative is aimed at bolstering NATO capacity in Eastern Europe, Carter spoke in November about how Russian aggression is shaping the U.S. defense budget more broadly.
“We’re investing in the technologies that are most relevant to Russia’s provocations, such as new unmanned systems, a new long-range bomber, and innovation in technologies like the electromagnetic railgun, lasers, and new systems for electronic warfare, space and cyberspace,” he said.
The investments also include “a few surprising ones that I really can’t describe here. We’re updating and advancing our operational plans for deterrence and defense given Russia’s changed behavior,” Carter said.
The added European funding would provide for expanded prepositioning of war stocks in the Baltics and the rotation of Army units for exercises, to include an armored brigade, a second official previously told Bloomberg News.
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