"Make no mistake, today's strategic security environment is more unpredictable than I have seen in my 35 years of service," Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva told reporters Tuesday as the defense budget was unveiled. "The pervasive threat posed by violent extremist organizations has been and remains an immediate threat."
All told, the overall request will encompass $523.9 billion in discretionary funding for the Defense Department's base budget, along with a request for $58.8 billion in funding for overseas contingency operations, which is where the funding for military operations in Afghanistan and the operations against ISIS come from.
There was also a request for $16.8 billion, for both the base budget and overseas contingency operations funding for the Military Intelligence Program. While the Pentagon said the disclosure of that figure did not jeopardize any classified activities within the program, it declined to elaborate on any specific figures within the budget for that program because they remain classified for national security reasons.
Despite the size of the budget request, top defense officials maintain there will be no room for waste.
"This proposal reflects the hard choices we've made in the context of today's security environment and economic constraints," Selva said, adding, "it does not leave much room for needed flexibility."
The budget request was derived from a focus of five strategic areas -- the challenges posed by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and the ongoing global campaign against terrorist networks -- while preserving the flexibility to confront unforeseen challenges, Pentagon officials said.
With Russia continuing to deploy military capabilities far beyond its borders, and China increasing its military spending and buildup around the world at a rapid pace, officials say those realities reflect a priority in U.S. defense spending.
"Even as we continue to cooperate on issues of mutual interest to both countries, we concluded the department must be prepared for a period of increased competition over the next 25 years," Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said in the same briefing.
And with North Korea's recent rocket launch and nuclear test, along with continued development of missile systems that could some day be capable of targeting the United States, officials say the reclusive country remains a top priority in military planning.
"(North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un has demonstrated a propensity for provocation which lends itself to miscalculation and is very, very, in our view, destabilizing and risky," Work said.
Defense officials said they also anticipate a sustained campaign against ISIS and other terror groups as their networks and presence expand beyond Syria and Iraq to other parts of Asia, Africa and beyond.
"From our perspective, the campaign against global terrorist networks will be an enduring condition for much of the next 25 years and we have to be prepared to monitor it constantly, respond to and treat it when necessary," Work said.
And with the political race for the next president well underway, the second-highest-ranking official in uniform said he took "umbrage" with the notion from certain candidates that the military has been gutted in recent years.
"At no time in my career have I been more confident than this instant in saying we have the most powerful military on the face of the planet," Selva said while acknowledging the challenges posed by a global set of threats in the current fiscal environment. "I would say we are far from gutted."