WASHINGTON — It's a true case of more being less.
The $715 billion 2022 budget proposed for the Pentagon represents a slight increase from fiscal Year 2021, yet, it actually lags behind the rate of inflation.
In other words, even though it's an $11 billion increase, it really isn't. Mathematically speaking, it's a 0.4% cut.
Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley insisted the budget was substantial.
"This budget delivers a ready, agile and capable joint force that will compete and deter and win across all domains," he said, testifying Thursday before the House Appropriations Military Subcommittee.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) didn't seem convinced.
"Is this $715 billion sufficient to carry out the department's mission?" she asked.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin replied: "This budget provides us the ability to create the right mix of capabilities to defend this nation and to deter any aggressors."
Lloyd and Milley steered clear of budget specifics during their testimony.
That's because President Joe Biden will not release the overall $6 trillion White House Budget until Friday.
Still, based upon the vague details that are known now, subcommittee Republicans were not impressed, warning that the defense budget was actually far too low -- way short of the 3 to 5% boost above inflation that they're seeking.
"When you consider the massive readiness and modernization challenges facing all our services and the pace by which China is developing its military capability, this request in my opinion is insufficient," said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-California).
Among unanswered questions: how many F-35 Joint Strike fighters will the budget seek, and how many of the troubled jets will Congress agree to pay for?
Secretary Austin also spoke in general terms about military sexual assault.
"We must not be afraid to try new things when it comes handling such cases," he said.
And of the attacks themselves, he said: "They tear at the fabric of who we are."