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The Pentagon Budget: Spurring a High-Tech Arms Race

The military budget request made by the US government for 2024 is the biggest in current dollars since the heights of the Afghan and Iraq conflicts. It is set to spur an endless high-tech arms race for years to come.

Senior Pentagon officials and mainstream Washington media claim that the US needs to stockpile bombs, missiles, and other armaments because there is an increasing possibility that it will go to war with either China or Russia, or both. 20% or $170 billion of the planned budget is set aside for the purchase of additional tanks, ships, and planes, along with all the bombs, shells, and missiles they can carry.

The Pentagon has asked for its greatest ever investment for "research, development, test, and evaluation" (RDT&E), or the process of turning the newest technological advancements into weapons of war, and is targeting $145 billion, or 17%, towards potential confrontations in the 2040s and 2050s.

Assuming that China and Russia will continue to be major adversaries for many years to come and that future wars with those countries or other major powers could largely be decided by the mastery of artificial intelligence (AI) along with other emerging technologies, the Pentagon has increased its focus on developing future weapons. Robotics, supersonic travel, and quantum computing are a few of these.

As a result, $17.8 billion of the $145 billion RDT&E budget will be specifically allocated to the advancement of technology connected to the military. The Pentagon wants to hasten the development of other emerging technologies, particularly robots, autonomous weapons systems, and hypersonic missiles, as well as the weaponization of AI.

The Pentagon's justification for making significant investments in cutting-edge technologies is that the US is in danger of falling behind as China and Russia invest in artificial intelligence at an unprecedented rate. The US military is worried not just that it would lose its technological edge, but also that it might be at a disadvantage in a possible confrontation.

The Pentagon's emphasis on the future of combat is consistent with the concentration on RDT&E spending. The Biden administration wants the US to be at the forefront of AI technology and sees AI as the military of the future.

One of the specific initiatives highlighted in the budget is the Joint All-Domain Command-and-Control system (JADC2), an AI-enabled network of sensors, computers, and communications tools designed to gather and process data on enemy movements and transmit that information at breakneck speed to combat forces in every "domain" (air, sea, ground, and space). JADC2's $1.3 billion price tag demonstrates how significant AI is to the US military.

According to the Pentagon, AI and other cutting-edge technologies will rule the future of warfare. If the US wants to maintain its position as the world's leading military power, it must invest in AI now. For the US military, which has traditionally placed a greater emphasis on hardware like tanks, ships, and aeroplanes, the focus on AI represents a strategic shift. The US military is also aware that Russia and China are making significant investments in AI, putting the US at risk of slipping behind.


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