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Progressives Face Tough Road in Bid to Cut Biden Defense Budget

  • ‘Legacy’ weapons programs to come under review, Reed says
  • Critics eye Northrop’s intercontinental ballistic missile

Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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The high price tag of taming the coronavirus pandemic and pressure from some Democrats to significantly reduce the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget probably won’t force arbitrary national security budget cuts, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s new chairman said.

“Arbitrary reductions would not be the right way to go,” Senator Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who leads the panel, said in an interview Monday. Congress will weigh President Joe Biden’s first budget request and review the military services’ proposals to see if they cut unnecessary, so-called “legacy” weapons programs and facilities, Reed said.

Reed’s position is significant because Biden’s election elevated a narrative within the Democratic Party that the president will be under enormous pressure from progressives to slash defense spending. National security makes up about half of the federal government’s discretionary budget.

Biden’s budget blueprint will be matched up against the Trump administration’s December fiscal planning framework, which outlined $759 billion for national security, with $722 billion of that for the Pentagon alone. That would be a 2.3% increase over this year’s request. The five-year framework detailed growth of 2.1% annually, about the projected rate of inflation.