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Air Force FY 2020 Discretionary and IT Budget Request Observations

Published: May 15, 2019

Federal Market AnalysisUSAFBudgetInformation Technology

The Air Force has submitted a $205 billion FY 2020 discretionary budget request, with $5.5 billion for unclassified information technology spending.

In mid-March, after a month-long delay due a partial federal government shutdown, the White House released its fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request, which included broad top-line details for the Department of Defense (DoD) and its components and military departments, like the Department of the Air Force. However, fuller detail of the DoD and MILDEP FY 2020 budgets, including information technology (IT), were not released until mid-April.

The new budget request accelerates growth for the Air Force and the other MILDEPs that would build on budget increases included in the FY 2019 and FY 2018 budget appropriations.

Total Discretionary Funding and Priorities

The proposed FY 2020 budget provides $204.8B in total discretionary budget authority to the Air Force, a 6.1% increase over the FY 2019 amount of $192.9B. The Air Force’s overall strategy supports personnel and operational readiness and force strength to bolster global capabilities.  

Air Force discretionary funding highlights include:

  • Provides $65.0B for O&M activities, adding $4.4B vs. FY 2019 with increased funding that prioritizes Flying Operations, Space/Combat Forces and Training and Recruiting ($1.4B).
  • Supports research and innovation for operational systems development, engineering and manufacturing through $46.1B in RDT&E funding, $5.1B above FY 2019.
  • Allots $50.1B for Procurement, $100M over FY 2019. Priorities center on aircraft and weapons systems, but also on support communications systems such as Distributed Common Ground System and electronics.

Air Force FY 2020 IT Budget

Over the last decade or more OMB and the DoD have been consistently reducing public visibility into the details of the DoD IT budget by placing an increasing proportion of this spending behind a classified veil. Beginning with the FY 2018 budget, OMB no longer allows the investment details of unclassified IT systems categorized as “National Security Systems” to be publicly viewable. That accounts for approximately $17B in IT budget across the DoD with roughly $3-$4B of that within the Air Force.

Even without releasing program details, the DoD still releases total top-line budget estimates for both the NSS and Classified IT/Cyberspace Activities (CA) budget categories for each of the DoD components, allowing us to piece together a total IT budget for the Air Force. The result for FY 2020 is that the Air Force is requesting a combined $7.9B for IT, which is 7% below FY 2019 and is more in line with spending in FY 2018. (See table below.)

Noteworthy IT Programs

Looking further into the Air Force’s publically-available IT budget initiatives among non-classified, non-national security systems gives us some insight into their current Enterprise IT priorities as well as a glimpse into potential future investments. Below are a few initiatives that stand out among the publicly-released IT budget due to their relative size, budget growth, and/or proportion of new development spending. For FY 2020, IT funding highlights include:

  • Enterprise License Agreements – This line item bins all funding for Microsoft and Adobe licensing agreements to show funding just for licensing in IT budget reporting. At $143M for FY 2020 the Air Force’s single largest unclassified IT investment sees a $200K decrease from FY 2019. This investment is designated as 100% O&M spending.
  • Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System – DEAMS drives improved information technology management through integrated financial information to enable accurate budget forecasting and the retirement of some legacy systems. DEAMS receives $129M for FY 2020, of which 43% ($55M) is DME. This initiative declines by more than $27M (-18%) from FY 2019.
  • Mission Partner Environment – MPE enables secure sharing of operational information for collaboration between and among the U.S. and mission partners. At $91M for FY 2020, this investment incurs a decrease of $16M from FY 2019. DME makes up $10M of the overall FY 2020 budget.
  • WMA Corporate Management and Support Development Test and Evaluation (11) – This AFMC investment provides Corporate Management and Support capabilities in the Warfighter Mission Area. At $76M for FY 2020 the initiative receives an $800K increase over FY 2019. DME accounts for $12.5M (16%) of the total FY 2020 budget.
  • Base Information Transport Infrastructure Wired – BITI Wired (formerly known as Information Transport System (ITS) Increment (Inc) 1) provides base-wide wired connectivity to base network users as well as a GuestNet capability and a standardized network management system. Coming in at $73M for FY 2020, BITI receives a $52M increase over FY 2019, making it one of the highest-growing non-new initiatives in the Air Force FY 2020 IT budget. Further, 95% of the FY 2020 funds are for DME activities.

It is now Congress’ task to work up budget appropriations for the Air Force and other defense components and that will take many months to finalize, ideally by the close of the FY 2019 fiscal year at the end of September. Given the ongoing threat of sequestration caps that would re-engage in FY 2020 in the absence of new congressional action to remove it - either in the form of a bipartisan budget agreement or a similar provision within the Defense appropriations bill – the fate of this new budget request is uncertain. It is unclear whether Congress is willing to continue funding increases similar to the last few years.

Get a focused look into the current contracting outlook at the Air Force, check out our free webinar Air Force Strategic Outlook for 2019 and Beyond.

For a deeper dive into the details of the FY 2020 budget, check out our report: Insights and Implications: FY 2020 Federal Budget Request.

Get a free report summary of Insights and Opportunities: FY 2020 Federal Budget Request.