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MG Arnold Punaro (USMC-ret.), CEO of The Punaro Group, discusses defense spending, the National Defense Strategy and national security in a Biden administration

The picture of what next year will look like is becoming a lot clearer for defense and industry, as the Senate Appropriations Committee has recently released its proposed 2021 spending bill.

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 includes cuts for research, development, test and evaluation accounts at the Department of Defense by $2.1 billion, while increasing funding for F-35 jets by about $1.7 billion. Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro (USMC-ret.) says that while spending might fluctuate, people should not be looking at the spending bill from a perspective of winners and losers.

“DoD is spending about $2 billion a day, and there is still about $100 billion in the research and development account, $130 in the procurement accounts,” Punaro said. “The R&D accounts, even with that shift of $2 billion … is just one-day spending and a very, very miniscule percentage of the overall total.”

These budget decisions come as Congress is facing a budget deficit of about $3.1 trillion from FY2020, more than three times the deficit from the year before, according to the Congressional Budget Office. These shortfalls are expected to leave the Defense Department with a flat budget in the coming years, without factoring the moves of an incoming president-elect Joe Biden administration.

But even with a pending Democrat-led House of Representatives and White House, and a Republican-led Senate, Punaro does not expect there to be too much in the way of meeting defense priorities.

“I look at the long arch of history here. In the last 56 years, we’ve had divided government for 36 of those years and our national security has fared very well,” Punaro said. “[President-elect Biden] is a mainstreamer when it comes to national security policy, all his top people that are around him … are Pentagon-savvy, very strong, pro-national defense people.”

The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution, as FY2021 began at the beginning of October without a coinciding omnibus spending bill. Congress has until Dec. 11 to continue funding the government.

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