DOD asks for $112B in R&D funding in budget request

The Air Force Memorial and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. (REUTERS / Joshua Roberts)

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The Department of Defense is asking Congress to increase its overall research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) budget by more than $5 billion in fiscal 2021, a request that leaders have been teasing in the months before the official budget request was published Friday.

The department is seeking $112 billion for RDT&E, which represents a 5% year-on-year increase from enacted levels in fiscal 2021, and is the largest ever such demand.

The overall budget request for fiscal 2022, which was published earlier in April, comes in at $715 billion.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers Thursday that the budget announced Friday would have “the largest ever request for [research, development, test and evaluation] for the development of technologies.”

“Our effort is to make sure that we have the ability to leverage quantum computing, AI [and] space-based platforms,” he told the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. He added the funding was also to ensure that the DOD could “not just leverage these capabilities but network these capabilities in ways they have never been networked.”

The DOD’s budget request includes a slight boost to artificial intelligence funding, with this year’s being $874 million, more than the $841 million in last year’s request. 

Austin and the department’s No. 2 civilian, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks, have emphasized the need to invest in new technologies, like AI, cybersecurity, and new concepts of operations that use them, while divesting from legacy systems.

“Our fiscal year [2022] budget will provide early insight into our strategic approach,” Hicks said at the Aspen Security Forum in early May. “It will support defense research, development, test and evaluation funding. This will lead to breakthrough technologies that drive innovation and underpin the development of next-generation defense capabilities.”

While overall spending would get a boost if the budget is approved by Congress as is, the Army would see a more than $1 billion cut in its R&D budget, a reflection of a shift to focusing on the Indo-Pacific region where other services like the Navy and Air Force are expected to play a bigger role. The Air Force and Navy combined would get a more than $5 billion bump.

Army funding was also cut as its soldiers begin to withdraw from Afghanistan, DOD acting Comptroller Anne McAndrew told reporters Friday.

Another boost came in cyberspace activities, where the the DOD has requested $10.4 billion, compared with a $9.8 billion request for fiscal year 2021.

To account for the boosts in funding in research and development, cyber and other tech, the request seeking $2.8 billion less funding across a range of legacy systems, including the Army’s IT budget and some intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) tech from special operations command.

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2022 budget, Air Force, Army, budget, cyber, Department of Defense (DOD), Navy
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