In an effort to bring the US into a new era of investments in education and refreshed stance on combating climate change, while also renewing defece interests, the Biden administration has declared that it will be using some $6 trillion in federal spending for fiscal year 2022, a new proposal released on Friday has revealed.
Underscoring a departure from the previous administration's spending proposals, the Biden White House's budget incorporates two of the president's signature domestic policies - the American Families Plan and the American Jobs Plan. However, neither of the initiatives have yet been seriously weighed by the US Congress to date.
While the topline budget stands at $6 trillion, only $300 billion of the budget is for new spending in fiscal 2022.
In a statement accompanying the proposal, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the funding request highlights the Biden administration's intent to "revitalise US leadership to accelerate our domestic renewal, deliver for all Americans, and meet the tests before us - from ending COVID-19 to dealing with the climate crisis to out-competing China - from a position of strength".
Combating Iranian, Russian, And Chinese 'Influence' in Europe & Eurasia
Under the Congressional Budget Justification proposal, some $1.9 trillion is budgeted toward combating Iranian, Chinese, and Russian "influence" across much of Europe and Eurasia, with high focus on the Middle East specifically.
The proposal indicates that approximately $665.8 million will be specifically used to bolster Europe and Eurasia's "resilience to foreign malign influence and advance Euro-Atlantic integration, while addressing growing challenges from Russia and the People’s Republic of China, including predatory development".
"Funding will support programmes focused on defending democracy, rule of law, advancing human rights and gender equality, fighting corruption, and countering authoritarianism", the document adds.
However, another nearly $300 million will be used in order to "counter Russian influence and aggression" by way of improving both "interoperability with NATO and other Western forces". The proposal outlines that funds would be designated for equipment, training, intelligence and surveillance, among other "security priorities".
Priority recipients of the funding include Ukraine, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, according to the US Department of State.
The budget also stipulates that $255 million will be directed to strengthen Ukraine's ability to counter so-called "Russian aggression", with funds meant to help "accelerate reforms to address corruption, enhance transparency, and accountability", among other efforts.
On combating China, roughly $155 million is meant to sustain America's "Countering PRC Malign Influence Fund". The proposal states that the funding for the ongoing initiative will "deter aggression, coercion, and malign influence by state and non-state actors".
Additionally, the spending budget earmarks over $800 million for international broadcasting operations to target markets in Iran, China, and Russia, as well as countries in Africa and wider Middle East. Funds will also be tapped for coverage on political and humanitarian challenges in Myanmar, Belarus, Hong Kong, Venezuela, and Cuba.
Funding Boost to Upgrade Hypersonic Weapons, Missile Defences
In terms of US defences, Biden's budget proposal will work toward modernising the nation's nuclear arsenal, as well as developing future warfare capabilities. Funding, as it has in the past, will also be tapped to ensure American defences maintain their top levels.
Approximately $27.7 billion will be geared toward nuclear modernisation, including the development of new submarine and long-range bombers. Another $20.4 billion will be directed for improving and maintaining missile defences, such as sea-based systems.
When it comes to hypersonic weaponry, the administration intends to boost funding to $238 million, an increase of $52 million from the previous fiscal year.
"Hypersonic weapon development increases by $52 million to fund the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCI-FIRE), an air-breathing prototype in partnership with Australia, and the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile prototype while continuing to fund the Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) for an early operational capability in 2022", the budget proposal said.
"ARRW is funded to $238 million and is on track to be the nation's first operational hypersonic weapon".
In a desire to upgrade America's early warning missile defence systems, roughly $2.8 billion have been carved out of the budget to meet the objective. "These investments include the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared to track ballistic and hypersonic threats, Upgraded Early Warning Radars, and Wide Area Surveillance in the National Capital Region", reads the proposal.
Funding will also be used for investments in the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence Weapon System, Standard Missile procurement for cruise, ballistic, and hypersonic missile defence, and E-2D Hawkeye sensor capabilities.
Additionally, the proposal stipulates that $5.1 billion will go toward the US military's "deterrence" efforts in the Indo-Pacific region. US service members were also given a 2.7% pay raise.
SolarWinds Hack Prompts Funding Spike to Cybersecurity Reserve
On account of the devastating SolarWinds hack, the proposal also included $750 million allocated for nine government agencies that were most affected, noting that funds would be used for improving the federal government's cyber defences in the future.
The SolarWinds hack, which went undetected for a period of months, came to light in December 2020. It was subsequently determined that hackers had infiltrated various US government agencies through a system update that was initiated by SolarWinds' Orion software.
Entities that used the Orion software included the US Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, and the Treasury. Although the incident was quickly blamed on Russia after former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed such allegations, Moscow has repeatedly rejected such claims.
Earlier, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov remarked that any such accusations were "unfounded and are a continuation of the kind of blind Russophobia that is resorted to following any incident".
At the time, former US President Donald Trump also hinted that China, rather than Russia, may have been responsible for the cyberattack, which according to the former commander-in-chief, was somewhat exaggerated.
On the cyber front, the budget proposal is also tapping $10.4 billion for the US Department of Defence for the agency's cyberspace activities.
Pandemic Elicits Increased Funds to Combat Infectious Diseases
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, critics have highlighted the lack of preparations within the US and abroad as the SARS-CoV-2 virus quickly spread and crippled the global economy.
Included in the funding proposal is another $1.4 billion that officials are requesting in order to combat any looming threats from infectious diseases.
"As the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates, in an increasingly interconnected world, diseases know no borders", the document states. "With the resources requested in FY 2022, the United States will continue to combat infectious diseases that threaten the lives of millions each year".
At present, much of the US has resumed pre-pandemic normalcy as vaccination rates are increasing. Figures from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have indicated that half of US adults are now fully vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Nearly 63% of American adults have received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, according to the health agency.
The CDC announced earlier in May that individuals who were fully vaccinated no longer needed to wear masks or adhere to social distancing guidelines whether they were indoors out outdoors. The move, which marked a turning point for the nation, was later hailed by Biden as a "great milestone".
Improving US Infrastructure, Social Programmes & Education
While the budget proposal still maintains hefty funding for the US military, the Biden administration is also shifting its focus and seeking to finance various domestic programmes within the fields of scientific research and renewable energy.
The funding hike, which would largely rely on corporate tax increases and boosted taxes on high-income households, would provide $17 billion geared toward repairing roads and bridges, $4.5 billion to replace lead-based water pipes and another $13 billion to expand the reach of high-speed broadband.
Within the education sector, the proposal outlines funding for universal preschool along with $3.5 billion to ensure a $15 and hour wage for teachers serving schools offering the said programme. Some $6.7 billion was allocated for affordable child care, with another $750 million for paid leave absences.
"Put together, this budget is an agenda for durable economic growth and broadly shared prosperity", Shalanda Young, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, said on a Friday call with reporters. "It will deliver a strong economy now and for decades".
Although a budget can pass through both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate with a simple majority, a spending bill would require bipartisan support from the evenly-split Senate chamber.