May 23, 2013
By Baker Spring
The Department of Defense (DOD) is now examining three revised budget options for presentation to the President. All three would impose significant damage. This is because even the highest of the three options would shrink the portion of the economy committed to defense, shrink force structure, reduce the number of people serving in the military, impose slower increases in military compensation, reduce the scope of training and maintenance, and deprive the military of significant portions of the new weapons and equipment it needs.
Most importantly, the budget reductions would result in a military of insufficient overall strength to meet the established security commitments the federal government has made to the American people and U.S. friends and allies around the world.
The three options under consideration are:
The best starting point for comparing the three options is President Obama’s request for defense in FY 2014 and beyond. However, the DOD revised the request earlier this month to provide a firm number of a bit over $79 billion for the defense portion of overseas contingency operations (OCO) in FY 2014, but it omits funding levels for any year beyond FY 2014. Accordingly, this analysis applies the revised request for OCO in FY 2014 and no funds thereafter.
Further, it limits the comparisons to the remaining period covered by the BCA (FY 2014 through FY 2021) because this is the best means of comparison for Congress as it drafts legislation on the defense program in the course of this year. The following are the funding levels for the total defense program under the three options for the eight-year period:
Accordingly, Option 2 provides about 4 percent less for the total defense program than Option 1. Option 3 provides about 8 percent less than Option 1. It is important to understand, however, that the defense reductions have been going on for several years at this point. Even Option 1 in FY 2014 is more than 11 percent below what the nation spent on defense in FY 2010.
By way of analysis, there are eight bases for comparing the three options and their impact on defense. Each basis provides Congress a different means for assessing the impact. All of the comparisons apply the spending amounts in percentage terms and on a straight line across elements of the defense program:
Among the three options President Obama is to consider, it is likely that he will publicly endorse a variation of Option 1. In reality, however, the President will choose Option 3.
Since the enactment of the BCA in 2011, President Obama has consistently stated that he does not want sequestration cuts to apply, and his current defense budget proposal does not account for it. On the other hand, he has just as consistently opposed proposals from the House of Representatives to set sequestration aside.
Congress should encourage the Obama Administration to set aside the ongoing budget-driven exercise in favor of proceeding with the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) directly. Further, it should demand that the QDR establish a national security policy that meets the needs of the nation and then recommends funding the defense program at the necessary level.
Most immediately, however, Congress should not sit by passively as President Obama claims that he supports adequate funding for national security while behaving in ways that effectively block adequate funding in this area.
—Baker Spring is F. M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy
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