With Delay in Sequester, FY ’14 Budget Likely Pushed Back, DOD Says
Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said Monday that “some delay is almost inevitable” in releasing the department’s fiscal 2014 budget request in early February as a result of the recent agreement to avert the fiscal cliff.
Last week’s deal inserts uncertainty into planning DOD’s budget in two ways. It delays the trigger of sequestration by two months until the beginning of March, leaving unanswered whether the defense budget will be forced to absorb about $45 billion in further cuts during the current fiscal year. The agreement also trims the discretionary spending cap for defense in FY 2014 by approximately $4 billion.
“I have never seen a period of greater budget uncertainty. It gives a whole new meaning to March Madness,” Hale told a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution, reported Government Executive.
If lawmakers ultimately agree on a topline budget number for DOD and were also to provide officials flexibility in applying the spending reductions — rather than forcing across-the-board cuts in all accounts except for military personnel — Hale said he would start by reducing spending on long-term investment items rather than wartime operations.
Federal agencies probably will need to hold off submitting their budget proposals until March and, possibly, as late as April, Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told the publication.
For DOD, the last-minute changes likely will force adjustments on the margins, rather than revamping force structure or procurement. “It’s hard to cut at the end of the budget cycle when DOD has already finished its budget and is awaiting the passback from OMB,” Harrison said.