Amidst Calls for Cuts, Pentagon Seeks $120 Billion in New War Funding

January 8th, 2011 - by admin & Cato at Liberty & The New York Times – 2011-01-08 00:02:36

Pentagon to Seek $120 Billion in War Funding in 2012

Pentagon to Seek $120 Billion in War Funding in 2012
Jason Ditz /

(January 7, 2011) — According to comments from administration officials, the Obama Administration’s $50 billion projection for 2012 war funding is going to be blown apart, with a closed-door meeting putting the actual funding request closer to the $120 billion range.

The figure will be slightly less than the $159 billion war funding request for 2011, but as the overall military budget for 2012 will be considerably larger than the record 2011 budget, it is really only a question of officials having shuffled certain funding into different categories.

Even the $120 billion appears to be a “best case scenario,” as it does not appear to include any funding for the Iraq War, even though a number of officials concede that they fully anticipate continuing that conflict for years beyond the SOFA-mandated end. It also is rumored to include some assumed Afghan cuts, but these have not been confirmed.

Ultimately, however, these “emergency” war funding requests seem to be continuing for the forseeable future, even though President Obama made folding them into the military’s regular budget a top priority. Splitting up the record budgets is just too politically convenient, particularly when the administration is running massive deficits, to stop.

Gates’s Cuts that Aren’t
Christopher Preble / Cato at Liberty

(January 6, 2011) — Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is poised to axe or significantly restructure a number of high-profile weapons platforms, and otherwise rein in the Pentagon’s budget. The reports present these initiatives as intended to preempt greater scrutiny of the military’s budget by Congress.

The cuts will be announced later today, but it seems pretty clear that Gates will call for terminating the unnecessary Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), a Marine Corps program that is more than 176 percent over its original per-vehicle cost. Unhappily for taxpayers, the Pentagon has already spent $3 billion on the program, which has managed to deliver only prototypes.

The Marine Corps’s version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will also be delayed, according to news reports. And the secretary will continue his search for efficiencies in defense, an initiative that even the reliably conservative Washington Examiner finds worthy.

But amidst all the focus on “cuts,” two facts stand out:

1) Gates intends for the efficiencies, if they materialize, to be plowed back into the military’s coffers — not returned to taxpayers or used for reducing the deficit. Pentagon spokesman Jeff Morell told Politico’s Jen DiMascio “any story which purports that he is going to announce that the services don’t get to keep and invest the savings they’ve made are flat out wrong.”

2) The Pentagon’s base budget, excluding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is expected to grow in 2012. The FY 2011 base budget calls for spending $549 billion; the Obama administration is expected to request $554 billion for the Pentagon in its FY 2012 budget, which will be released next month.

In real, inflation-adjusted dollars, that is a 42 percent increase over the base budget in 2001. When the costs of the wars are factored in, total Pentagon spending has grown 72 percent — again, in real terms — since 2001.

Keep those essential points in mind when you hear the predictable cries from the Defending Defense crowd that Gates is shortchanging the military as it fights two wars. He is doing nothing of the sort.

Indeed, although Gates’s moves are aimed at preempting Congress, members and their staffs aren’t fooled. One Senate aide told DiMascio that despite Gates’s prior cuts, there are still a number of troubled programs drawing billions of taxpayer dollars. “So we can cut,” he said. “We can cut and we can cut big.”

To make “big” cuts in the military’s budget without rethinking its missions would be a mistake. Instead, the Obama administration should be actively soliciting input on ways to reduce the military’s global posture; terminate the open-ended nation-building mission in Afghanistan, and stop planning similar missions in other failed states; and compel wealthy, stable allies to bear the costs and risks of their own defense.

Such steps would allow the White House and Congress to responsibly restructure our military based on a realistic assessment of available means and achievable ends, with the savings being returned to US taxpayers.

Struggle Forecast for
Pentagon and Deficit Hawks

Christopher Drew and Thom Shanker / The New York Times

NEW YORK (January 7, 2011) — Now that the Obama administration has forced the Pentagon to gradually freeze its budget in response to economic pressures, the question in Washington is: How long will the deal hold up?

In announcing plans to cut $78 billion in spending over five years, phasing out any growth above inflation, the defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, made it clear on Thursday that he hoped to keep the military budget from shrinking.

Many analysts said he did an artful job in picking areas to trim, but they doubted that the Pentagon would be able to prevent the budget from actually dropping in two or three years, particularly if deficit-reduction efforts gathered steam.

Political and military analysts said even some of the new Republicans in the House might find it difficult to trim government expenditures without including the Pentagon’s base budget, which the White House would like to increase to $550 billion in fiscal 2012.

The new House Republican leaders — who have said that military spending should not be off limits — and newcomers backed by the Tea Party could join with Democrats who have long bridled at the surge in military spending since the Sept. 11 attacks. And with troops coming home from Iraq, legislators could win support for more cuts from a public weary after a decade of war, even as the fighting continues in Afghanistan.

Mr. Gates acknowledged the new political reality, saying tough choices were “more important than ever at a time of extreme fiscal duress, when budget pressures and scrutiny fall on all areas of government, including defense.”

But even as Mr. Gates drew a new line in the sand on “the minimum level of defense spending that is necessary,” the latest reductions seemed to fuel the sense that the military budget was now in play.

Just last fall, Mr. Gates had seemed confident that he could ease such pressures by shifting money inside the Pentagon. He had pushed the armed services and the bureaucracy for $150 billion in savings over five years that could be used for military priorities. He announced many of those changes, including facility consolidations and a reduction in contractors, on Thursday.

But in agreeing with the White House decision to reduce the Pentagon’s budget request for 2012 to $553 billion, excluding the costs of the wars, from the $566 billion that he thought he had been promised, Mr. Gates took “a sort of one-step-back concession to reality,” said Gordon Adams, a former Clinton administration official who served on Mr. Obama’s transition team.

“The finger in the dike didn’t work,” Mr. Adams said, referring to Mr. Gates’s efforts. “And now he is acknowledging that pressure from outside is impinging on defense.”

Mr. Adams and other analysts said that stopping the budget’s growth could lead to substantial cuts in spending and in the size of the military’s forces.

“If you think about the defense budget as having a wide turning radius like an aircraft carrier, it is just about 20 percent into a turn that could take years to finish,” said Loren B. Thompson, a consultant to military contractors. “But at least Gates is now acknowledging that the turn is coming.”

Mr. Gates said the $78 billion in reductions from previous budget proposals would enable Pentagon spending to keep growing slightly faster than inflation through fiscal 2014 and at a rate equal to inflation in the two years after that.

He said some of the savings would be achieved by cutting 47,000 Army troops and Marines in those last two years. But just staying ahead or even with inflation would produce nominal increases that could seem eye-popping to lawmakers worried about the nation’s debt.

Excluding war costs, the administration’s new budget proposal for the Pentagon would total $2.9 trillion over five years. The annual totals would rise to $571 billion in fiscal 2013, $586 billion in 2014, $598 billion in 2015 and $611 billion in 2016.

And Mr. Gates, who is widely respected by members of both parties, has said he is likely to retire this year, a move that would leave the Pentagon without its most forceful advocate.

The defense secretary said that even as the growth slows, the United States military would be far more powerful than any other, especially as other nations cut back more severely. But he also cautioned that further reductions would amount to “math, not strategy.”

Other Pentagon officials wondered what could be cut while 100,000 American troops are in Afghanistan, the United States faces crises with North Korea and Iran, and China and Russia are beefing up their forces.

But the new House speaker, John A. Boehner, and majority leader, Eric Cantor, have said that trims in military spending were a possibility. Other Republicans would prefer to limit budget cuts to domestic programs.

Representative Howard P. McKeon of California, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he would resist military spending cuts.

Congress also could reject Mr. Gates’s plan to increase health insurance fees for retired veterans. Representative Norm Dicks, Democrat of Washington, said the health care changes would be “very sensitive in my district.”

Ohio and Michigan lawmakers also have begun to rally support for the Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, a $14.4 billion program that Mr. Gates would like to kill. It could provide thousands of jobs in those states.

Military contractors’ stocks gained Friday, with investors relieved the cuts were not deeper. But as past downturns have unfolded, it has often proved easier to reduce weapons systems than personnel and benefits.

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