Fight over defense dollars looms in House

The House Armed Services Committee's top Republican, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), is pushing for a 3% to 5% increase in the topline 2022 defense budget and wants education and training for cybersecurity and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence to top the panel's agenda.

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The House Armed Services Committee's top Republican, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), named education and training for cybersecurity and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence as one of his top priorities heading into the 2022 defense policy bill cycle.

"Cyber is just an emerging threat that we've got to recognize we're not prepared to meet,"

Rogers told reporters at a virtual Defense Writers Group event on March 22. "I'm really interested in trying to develop our workforce with cyber and AI capabilities," Rogers said.

The new HASC ranking member called out the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence's recommendation to create a digital service academy to bolster cyber and AI skills. The setup would be similar to that of the military academies and students could earn professional certificates and advanced degrees at no cost as long as graduates committed to work for the government after graduating, he said.

But Rogers' chief priorities are increasing the Defense Department's topline spending 3% to 5% of this year's $740 billion budget after inflation adjustments to make the U.S. more competitive with China.

"They are moving at an incredible pace to develop their military capabilities across the spectrum and around the world. We have to focus on them. We can't ignore Iran, we can't ignore North Korea or Russia, but they are nothing compared to the challenge we're going to face with China," Rogers said.

HASC Chairman Adam Smith has long contended that DOD has enough funding and needs to spend its money more judiciously. Rogers agreed on the principle but also said the modernization efforts DOD needs require billions of dollars more in resources.

"I'm going to be supportive of anything that I think makes the Pentagon more efficient in the way of reforms. But the fact is we have passed a lot of reforms in the last four years that they just haven't implemented," Rogers said, adding that he'd like to work with Smith on measures that "try to force the Pentagon to comply with what we've already put in place."

"But even with that," he said, "we have to recognize that we're going to have to increase defense spending to keep up with the pace from China...we have to modernize and we've got to do this stuff now."

Those modernization dollars, Rogers suggested, would go to Indo-Pacific Command, for example, which asked for $4.7 billion in fiscal 2022 (more than double this year's budget), and to increase the Navy's fleet.

On the Army side, Rogers said he was most concerned about progress on the Army's long-range fires if DOD's 2022 budget stays flat or declines.

"People have to realize and keep in mind that we've worn our equipment out, we've worn our manpower out over the last two decades; we don't have time to defer these investments any further," Rogers said.

NEXT STORY: Quick Hits: March 23

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