House Plan Would Leave DOD’s 2011 Budget Largely Intact

Defense spending would rise by $9.6 billion in the current fiscal year compared to fiscal 2010, with military construction and veterans affairs spending falling by $1.9 billion, under the allocation released this week by the House Budget Committee for each of the fiscal 2011 appropriations bills.

Spending in both defense-related bills would drop when compared to the president’s FY 2011 request — defense by $13.2 billion and milcon and veterans affairs by $1.3 billion. The House plan would provide a total of $517.7 billion for defense spending and $74.7 billion for milcon and veterans affairs in FY 2011. Of the allocations for the 12 appropriations panels, defense is the only one that would not fall, compared to 2010, with federal-wide discretionary spending dropping on a net basis by $32 billion.

The allocations will be used by House Republican appropriators to write a spending measure to fund the last seven months of the current fiscal year after the existing continuing resolution expires March 4. House Republicans will need to forge an agreement with Senate Democrats before a stopgap spending bill can move forward.

The House Appropriations Committee is expected to introduce a stopgap spending bill next week. The measure would go to the House floor the week of Feb. 14, following President Obama’s release of his FY 2012 budget request. One option under consideration is using a stand-alone defense spending bill as the vehicle for moving the continuing resolution that funds the federal government through the end of 2011, reported CQ Today.

2011 Spending Bill Urgent

Last week Defense Secretary Robert Gates strongly urged Congress to pass a separate 2011 defense spending bill, stating that if the department was forced to continue operating under a continuing resolution for the remainder of the year he would be forced to find $23 billion in spending cuts.

“This Congress would be responsible for that,” he told reporters Jan. 26 while en route to Ottawa. The reductions likely would come at the expense of training and readiness, and operations and maintenance, including facilities maintenance.

“And, frankly, that’s how you hollow out a military, even in wartime,” Gates said.

In addition to protecting deployed forces from any potential spending cuts, the secretary said he would try to shield funding for family programs.

Gates also defended his proposal to pare $78 billion from the administration’s five-year spending projection for the Pentagon, a plan that reduces the rate of growth in the DOD budget, while still allowing the department’s annual spending to increase each year. Of the savings, $54 billion would not affect the services and primarily would be aimed at defense agencies. About $14 billion is the result of changes in various assumptions. Inflation, for example, will be lower than anticipated and pay raises would be smaller than projected, he said.

Only the remaining $10 billion would affect the services, with $4 billion stemming from changes in the Joint Strike Fighter program and $6 billion resulting from reductions in the size of the active Army and Marine Corps in fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

“My view is … that’s far enough out in the future that if our assumptions about what the world is like prove to be not correct, there’s plenty of time to adjust and change those figures,” Gates said.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen

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