A UNITED STATES move to bolster its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region will accelerate if President Barack Obama wins $38 billion more for his defence budget.
The eight per cent increase sought from the Congress for Pentagon funding is about nine thousand million dollars more than Australia’s entire annual $29.3 billion defence budget.
The US currently spends just under $500 billion-a-year on its military and the jump would take the outlay to an incredible $534 billion.
Defence funding has been frozen in Washington since the 2013 budget sequestration and another 15,000 troops are due to be cut from the US Army this year and another 25,000 by 2018.
The Navy on the other hand will receive a boost of 5600 sailors this year.
The funding push is seen by experts as good news for Australia and for the US force ‘pivot’ or ‘rebalance’ to the Indo-Pacific region.
China has massively increased its defence spending and is developing powerful maritime weapons designed to counter US dominance on the world’s oceans.
The extra American funds would be spent on new fighter jets, warships and submarines as well as overseas operations.
The Pentagon is due to spend about $51 billion on foreign missions this year including $46 billion in Afghanistan and $5 billion to train Iraqi troops.
Canberra defence budget guru Mark Thomson from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said the US funding boost would be good news for Australia.
“Reinforcing American force structure in those areas [air and maritime] is consistent with them making good on their military revitalisation in the Pacific,” Dr Thomson said.
He said the extra 57 Joint Strike Fighters was also a major bonus for Australia.
“Buying more JSF’s earlier in the program means production costs will drop which will mean a reduce cost to Australia for the jets,” Dr Thomson said.
He said the push for greater funding for the Pentagon would not increase pressure on Australia to spend more on defence because the Abbott Government was committed to devoting two per cent of economic activity (GDP) to defence by 2023.
If that promise is kept the defence budget would grow from $29 billion now to $42 billion in eight years-time.