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US defence experts outline potential cuts in FY 2023 budget

The Pentagon, home to the US Department of Defense. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Several aviation, ground vehicle, and nuclear weapons programmes could be on the chopping block in the Biden administration's upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2023 defence budget request, according to a panel of military experts.

Aside from wanting to put its imprint on US defence policy, the administration will be under pressure to make cuts to offset rising inflation and a promised pay raise for troops, the experts said during a 7 February webinar hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The US Army's new armed scout helicopter, the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), is vulnerable budget-wise because it is not seen as survivable in the kind of “high-end competition” that the United States is increasingly emphasising, said Todd Harrison, director of defence budget analysis at CSIS. “If it doesn't get killed outright, I think it gets pushed out, slipped into the future, to pay bills,” Harrison said.

With the army likely to be “squeezed again” by budget constraints, the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, which is “desperately needed” to replace the ageing M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, could also be slashed, said Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense. The army has “already cut all the modernisation and procurement programmes that they could cut, so now they're down to the bone”, Spoehr added.

Although the US Air Force's MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle has survived past proposals to reduce its funding, it could be under the spotlight again because it is closely associated with counter-terrorism operations, which are receding in importance, said Travis Sharp, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

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