Air Force FY 2016 Discretionary and IT Budget Request Snapshot

Published: March 25, 2015


In February the White House released its fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request, including agency discretionary and information technology (IT) budget submissions. However, to get the full details on the Department of Defense (DoD) IT budget – including the Air Force – we had to wait until March, which has been the case consistently for many years. Let’s take a look at the Air Force to see the numbers and funding priorities tell us about the upcoming fiscal year and beyond.

Total Discretionary Funding

The FY 2016 federal budget provides the Air Force with $152.9B in base discretionary funding, an increase of $16B (+11.7%) from the FY 2015 enacted level, making it the biggest base budget winner among the four DoD branches. The Air Force budget also includes $14.4B in total Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, a reduction of $1.1B (-7%) from FY 2015, which is lowest in OCO cuts among the DoD branches.

Discretionary funding highlights include:

  • $41.3B in in base funding for Procurement, up $7.5B (22%) from FY 2015 estimated enacted level of $33.8B.
  • $48.6B in base funding for Operations and Maintenance (O&M), an increase of $4.3B (+10%) from the FY 2015 enacted level of $44.3B.
  • $26.5B in base funding for Research, Development, Test, & Evaluation (RDT&E), up $2.9B (+12%) from the FY 2015 enacted level of $23.6B.

Air Force Total IT and New Development Budgets

The Air Force is requesting a combined $5.3B for IT in FY 2016 IT, a 3.1% decrease from the $4.5B enacted level in FY 2015 and 9.5% below the FY 2014 level of $5.8B. This makes the Air Force the sole FY 2016 total IT budget loser among the four defense components.

However, story is not all bad. The IT budget reduction hits its IT Operations and Maintenance (O&M) funding while IT Development, Modernization, and Enhancement (DME) funding gets increases. At $2B for FY 2016, Air Force increases DME by $228M (+12.9%) over FY 2015, which itself saw a $366M increase from FY 2014. That means Air Force DME spending would increase nearly $600M (+42%) from FY 2014 to FY 2016. Further, the portion of overall Air Force IT that consists of DME has grown from 24% in FY 2014 to nearly 38% in FY 2016. Still, O&M makes up 62% of the Air Force total IT budget for FY 2016 (down from 76% in FY 2012), so the net result is a declining overall budget. (See table below.)

Noteworthy IT Programs

Delving into the Air Force’s IT budget investments and initiatives provides some vision into their current priorities and future direction. Here are a few initiatives that stand out among others due to relative size, budget growth, and/or proportion of new development spending.

IT funding highlights include:

  • Combatant Commands C2 and Communications – USSTRATCOM: Provides support for CENTCOM command, control, and communications support. At $352M, this is the largest single Air Force IT investments for FY 2016, receives the largest overall increase (+117%) from FY 2015, and has 83.7% DME funding.
  • Next Generation Operational Control System: OCX replaces the Air Force’s Global Positioning System Operational Control Segment which manages the GPS constellation and provides the capability to control the GPS families of satellites. It receives $297M (+24.4%) for FY 2016 and consists of 98.3% DME funding.
  • NC3-Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network (MEECN) Modernization: MEECN work updates the last line of operational C3 systems to maintain operations when all other non-nuclear-hardened communications have failed. The initiative receives $184M (+51.5%) for FY 2016, 91.7% of which is DME funding.
  • Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System (DEAMS): This is a financial legacy systems replacement using an enterprise architecture with COTS-based financial accounting software. At $182M (+41.9%) for FY 2016, DEAMS consists of 76.3% DME spending.
  • Tactical Data Link (TDL):  This initiative supports the systems used in combat to exchange messages, data, radar tracks, target information, platform status, imagery and command assignments. Receiving $133M for FY 2016 (+55.8%), TDL is comprised of 48.9% DME.

The continued year-over-year IT budget reduction points to a larger picture of focused IT priorities at the Air Force. The five large programs noted above underscore this trend: every single one garners a greater relative proportion of the overall Air Force IT budget over the last few years. In fact, among the largest 10 Air Force IT budget lines for FY 2016, all but 2 make up an increasingly greater relative proportion of the total AF IT budget in FY 2016 than they did in the previous two fiscal years. That means a consolidation of funding (and opportunities) around top priorities.

Further, of the programs above, all but DEAMS are among the top 10 IT initiatives for receiving DME funding increases from FY 2015 to FY 2016. (DEAMS is ranked #14 among top DME dollar increases, so it doesn’t really buck the trend.) So not only is the Air Force consolidating their shrinking IT budget into their large, high-priority programs, they are also focusing new development dollars with these programs as well. The resulting picture is one of focused effort, focused opportunity and a tighter competitive landscape.