Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, who pushed defense spending higher in the current fiscal year, told President Joe Biden on Wednesday that national security requires a boost of at least 5% above inflation in the next defense budget.
Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services, led a GOP letter to the president saying, “The security of the free world depends on a credible American military.”
Inhofe, who plans to retire in early January, will be working on his final defense bill this year after nearly three decades on the Armed Services Committee.
During the panel’s consideration of the 2022 defense bill last year, Inhofe proposed an increase of spending authority 5% above what Biden had proposed. The committee overwhelmingly adopted Inhofe’s amendment. Weeks later, the House Armed Services Committee, also controlled by Democrats, boosted the spending authority in its bill by the same amount.
The spending bill approved by Congress earlier this month — less than two weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — included an increase of 5.6% for defense above last year’s level. The total was $782 billion, an increase of $42 billion, according to the House Appropriations Committee. The number includes Energy Department programs; the Department of Defense allocation was $728.5 billion.
The appropriation included $12 billion above Biden’s request for “increased investments in ground vehicles, aircraft, ships, munitions and other equipment,” according to the committee. The bill also included a 2.7% pay hike for uniformed and civilian personnel.
Biden is expected to release his budget next week.
“This is a crucial period for our national security,” Inhofe’s letter states. “If we do not make the investments our military needs today, we will not be able to defend our nation or our allies in the future.”
The letter urges Biden to use the 2023 budget request to fill gaps in military readiness.
“Specifically, it is imperative that we improve force proficiency on new battlefields such as cyber; continue work at Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Administration to modernize our nuclear triad; grow our naval and projection forces; and quickly incorporate the latest innovations and enhancements into warfighting capabilities, including air and sealift, space, missile defense, munitions, and electronic warfare,” the letter states.
Last week, the Democratic chairman and top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee expressed concern to top Pentagon officials about the drawdown of Stinger short range air defense (SHORAD) missiles. The lawmakers noted that the spending bill included money for Ukraine defense aid that would likely include Stinger missiles and that replenishment was urgent.
The “committee strongly urges that the Department prioritize acceleration of a SHORAD modernization or replacement that will deliver a low-cost, exportable evolution of a system within 36 months,” the committee leaders said in a letter, adding that they were open to reprogramming money already appropriated if necessary.
Oklahoma has five major military installations: Air Force bases in the Oklahoma City, Altus and Enid areas; an Army artillery training base in Lawton; and an ammunition plant in McAlester.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Sen. Inhofe leads GOP letter to Biden requesting more defense spending