Top DOD officials and defense hawks for the most part breathed a sigh of relief after congressional leaders reached a budget deal offering the Defense Department $56 billion above the spending caps in fiscal 2016 and 2017.
Beyond the agreement’s window, though, defense officials will continue to face difficult budget decisions as they attempt to balance growing demands around the globe with rising costs for modernization, force structure and personnel, according to experts at this week’s Global Security Forum, an event sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“I wouldn’t paint too rosy of a picture going forward,” said Steve Kosiak, a former Office of Management and Budget defense expert. Programs such as the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement, the Air Force’s new bomber and tanker, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be forced to compete for resources, reported Defense News.
Greater funding for the military could be on the way, said Christian Brose, staff director for the Senate Armed Services Director. “My sense [is] you will have candidates in both parties arguing, not for a once-in-a-generation buildup, but a buildup beyond what the program is currently,” Brose said.
In fact, Brose predicted that defense supporters in Congress next year would push to increase DOD’s FY 2017 budget, reported Politico.
“I think that where we will end up as we begin budgeting for next year is probably fighting about moving that topline,” he said.
Of course, striking a new deal to increase defense spending won’t be easy. “Both Republicans and Democrats agree we need more money for defense,” Kosiak said, “but how does that fit into the overall [federal budget] package.”
Without additional funding to pay for military activities in the Mideast, Europe and the Pacific, Congress would be forced to consider trimming force structure, shuttering bases or cutting contractors or depot workers, said Mackenzie Eaglen, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
“There’s no magic sauce here,” Eaglen said. ‘The entire economy needs to grow or you’re cutting defense under any scenario.”