Image credit: Melody Cook/CNAS

March 14, 2018

2019 President's Budget Request for Defense-wide

By Susanna V. Blume and Lauren Fish

The Defense-wide account, colloquially known as the Fourth Estate, provides funds for all DoD activities that do not fall under one of the military services, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and defense agencies and field activities like the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the Defense Health Agency (DHA), and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). The Defense-wide account is both smaller than any of the services and grew less than each of the services, about 5 percent over the fiscal year 2018 request.1 This comparatively low growth is consistent with direction from Congress to cut funding for DoD major headquarters by 25 percent by 2020 and general concern, in and out of Congress, about the size and hierarchical nature the Fourth Estate. However, Defense-wide funding remains essential to several critical DoD missions: defending the United States against missile threats; supporting special operations forces; and developing ground breaking technologies, to name three. Moreover, in an any organization, but particularly in one the size of DoD, headquarters and back-office functions like human resources and accounting are essential to a well-functioning enterprise. DoD has committed to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Fourth Estate. However, further indiscriminate cuts to the Defense-wide accounts would be damaging to the department’s warfighting efficacy, as the following examples will show. 

The interactive graphic below provides a view of the Defense-wide budget request at different levels of aggregation and ultimately down to the program level of detail. Click on budget titles to see a breakdown by category; click on each category to see individual programs. Hover over labels or segments in the chart for additional detail. Click the inner rings to return to higher levels in the chart. 

Source: See endnote 2.

Missile Defense Agency

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is a research, development, and acquisition organization focused on protecting the homeland from ballistic missile threats (known as national missile defense) and on protecting U.S. military installations and allies overseas from ballistic missile threats (known as regional or theater missile defense). Both the Trump administration and Congress have prioritized missile defense in recent years, increasing funding for MDA in the 2017 appropriation and through amendments to the president’s 2018 budget request. The requested 2018 and 2019 funding increases are driven in part by the growing ballistic missile threat from North Korea. The administration requests $9.9 billion for the agency in 2019, a very substantial increase of 26 percent over the original 2018 president’s budget request.3 MDA plans to spend the bulk of this funding on research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E).4 It will also spend about a quarter of its 2019 funding request on procurement of both national missile defense systems, like Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD), and theater missile defense systems, like Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). The forthcoming DoD Missile Defense Review should shed additional light on the department’s priorities in this space, but this budget request makes clear that missile defense is a high priority for the Trump administration.

Special Operations Command

Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is a functional combatant command charged with supporting, directing, and overseeing U.S. special operations forces globally. The services provide personnel, platforms, and operational support to SOCOM, but many platforms, munitions, and research and development projects unique to special operations are funded under SOCOM in the Defense-wide account. The Department requests over $13 billion for this purpose in 2019. This request is about $1 billion more than the 2018 request, continuing a trend of growth in SOCOM funding. The majority of these funds, over $9 billion, directly support special operations forces’ operations and training.5 Most of the remainder goes toward procurement of special operations-specific weapons systems and modifying general purpose platforms for use by special operations forces, both of which are enabled by SOCOM’s dedicated procurement authority

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) mission is to identify and develop breakthrough national security technologies. DoD established DARPA following the 1957 Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite to ensure that in the future, the United States “would be the initiator and not the victim of strategic technological surprise.”6 DoD requests over $3 billion in RDT&E funding for DARPA in 2019, about the same as the 2018 request.7 While the details of DARPA’s projects are largely classified, research areas include biomedical technology, advanced aerospace systems, network-centric warfare technology, advanced electronics, and sensor technology. Many of DARPA’s research projects have eventually made their way into the commercial sector; the Global Positioning System, or GPS, is one of the more notable examples. 

Conclusion 

While much of what the Defense-wide account funds can be classified as back-office functions, substantial portions of this budget category go directly to the heart of DoD’s mission. DoD can and should find more efficient ways to do things like human resources management and accounting, but capricious cuts to the Defense-wide account based on the mistaken perception that it is all overhead risk damaging the department’s warfighting efficacy, as these three examples demonstrate.

Up next: some conclusions about the 2019 defense budget request and next steps. Check CNAS.org/PB19 or sign up to have fresh analysis delivered directly to your inbox.

Endnotes

  1. U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) Chief Financial Officer, Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request, (February 2018), 20, http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2019/FY2019_Budget_Request.pdf. U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) Chief Financial Officer, Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request, (May 2017), 21, http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2018/fy2018_Budget_Request.pdf.
  2. Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Chief Financial Officer, Department of Defense Budget Fiscal Year 2019 Military Personnel Programs (M-1), Operation and Maintenance Programs (O-1), Revolving and Management Funds (RF-1), Procurement Programs (P-1), Procurement Programs (P-1R) Reserve Components, RDT&E Programs (R-1), Construction Programs (C-1) [Microsoft Excels], (February 2018). Totals in the graphic differ from those reported in the DoD Comptroller’s overview documents. The overview documents report budget authority (BA), while the “-1s” used to produce this graphic report total obligation authority (TOA). The differences include treatment of reprogramming, recisions, unobligated balances, and offsetting receipts. For more information, see the National Defense Budget Estimates, or “Green Book.”
  3. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, PB 2019-23 Budget Summary, (March 2018), https://www.mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/budgetfy19_summary.pdf.
  4. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Budget Estimates Overview, (March 14, 2018), https://www.mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/budgetfy19.pdf.
  5. Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Chief Financial Officer, Department of Defense Budget Fiscal Year 2019 Military Personnel Programs (M-1), Operation and Maintenance Programs (O-1), Revolving and Management Funds (RF-1), Procurement Programs (P-1), Procurement Programs (P-1R) Reserve Components, RDT&E Programs (R-1), Construction Programs (C-1) [Microsoft Excels], (February 2018).  Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Chief Financial Officer, Department of Defense Budget Fiscal Year 2018 Military Personnel Programs (M-1), Operation and Maintenance Programs (O-1), Revolving and Management Funds (RF-1), Procurement Programs (P-1), Procurement Programs (P-1R) Reserve Components, RDT&E Programs (R-1), Construction Programs (C-1) [Microsoft Excels], (May 2017).
  6. "About DARPA," Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Accessed March 8, 2018, https://www.darpa.mil/about-us/about-darpa.
  7. Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Chief Financial Officer, Department of Defense Budget Fiscal Year 2019 Military Personnel Programs (M-1), Operation and Maintenance Programs (O-1), Revolving and Management Funds (RF-1), Procurement Programs (P-1), Procurement Programs (P-1R) Reserve Components, RDT&E Programs (R-1), Construction Programs (C-1) [Microsoft Excels], (February 2018).  Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Chief Financial Officer, Department of Defense Budget Fiscal Year 2018 Military Personnel Programs (M-1), Operation and Maintenance Programs (O-1), Revolving and Management Funds (RF-1), Procurement Programs (P-1), Procurement Programs (P-1R) Reserve Components, RDT&E Programs (R-1), Construction Programs (C-1) [Microsoft Excels], (May 2017).
  • Susanna V. Blume

    Senior Fellow, Defense Program

    Susanna Blume is a Senior Fellow in the Defense Program at the Center for New American Security. Her research areas include the Defense program and budget, defense posture and...

  • Lauren Fish

    Research Associate, Defense Program

    Lauren Fish is a Research Associate with the Defense Program and Future of Warfare Initiative at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Prior to joining CNAS, Ms. Fis...

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