Defense Department leaders, in testimony Tuesday, defended the Biden administration’s fiscal 2023 defense budget proposal as “robust,” but America’s top military officer acknowledged the risk that inflation could undercut the plan.
The president’s new budget would increase Pentagon spending by 2.2 percent over the fiscal 2022 level, which is itself a 7 percent increase over fiscal 2021. But with inflation running at nearly 8 percent now, worries abound in Congress that the fiscal 2023 defense budget — even if it would be one of the costliest since World War II — could amount to a cut after inflation is factored in.
If inflation does not subside significantly, even the president’s proposed 4.6 percent across-the-board pay increase for military personnel could leave troops with less buying power.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday that the budget was built on a flawed assumption about prices.
“This budget assumes an inflation rate of 2.2 percent, which is obviously incorrect, because it’s almost 8 percent,” Milley said. “It might go up, it might go down, but most forecasts indicate it’s going to go up and it could level out at 9 or 10 percent. Who knows, but it’s clearly higher than what the assumption was in this budget.”