The Pentagon’s budget guidance from the White House allows for modest growth in fiscal 2012 spending even thought it cuts about $80 billion from the military’s overall five-year plan, according to officials and analysts.
The White House has approved a basic defense total of about $554 billion in the budget it will submit to Congress for the year beginning next October 1. That’s $12 billion less than what the Pentagon planned, yet still allows for real growth over the fiscal 2011 budget, according to the figure and an analyst.
The five-year cut, if implemented, would represent about a 2.67 percent reduction to what’s a $2.99 trillion defense plan, not including war spending, according to Office of Management and Budget long-range figures released last February.
The White House-directed cuts come as a new Congress arrives in Washington to debate defense spending in the context of federal deficit reduction.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has committed to reducing overhead and inefficiencies by about $102 billion through 2016. Gates is seeking to forestall deep cuts in weapons and research while holding the line on overall defense spending. The Pentagon’s base budget has doubled since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Gates has said that tighter budgets mean the military won’t get the overall annual budget growth of 2 percent to 3 percent above inflation needed to sustain current weapons programs. So dollars saved elsewhere must be shifted from into those accounts.
“After a decade of growth, however, it now seems to be leveling off, and it may begin to decline if defense is included in measures to rein in federal budget deficits,” said Stephen Daggett, defense budget analyst at the non-partisan Congressional Research Service.
Thursday Congressional Meeting
Gates probably will outline additional specifics for reporters Thursday afternoon, after a scheduled briefing to senior defense committee lawmakers that morning in the U.S. Capitol office of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, officials said.
Spokespersons for Senator John McCain of Arizona, senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and House defense appropriations panel member Norm Dicks, Democrat of Washington, that panel’s senior Democrat, confirmed they’ll be attending a meeting of the so-called Big 8 lawmakers with Gates.
$12 Billion Cut
The $12 billion fiscal 2012 reduction includes efficiency savings, reduced inflation assumptions and savings from civilian pay freezes mandated last month by Congress, officials said.
Calculating exactly to what extent the $554 billion represents real growth for the Pentagon is difficult because there’s not been final passage of a fiscal 2011 funding bill. The Pentagon is operating under stopgap legislation through March that keeps spending at approximately the fiscal 2010 level, or about $530.8 billion, Daggett said.
The unfinished fiscal 2011 appropriations legislation now totals about $525.2 billion, Daggett said. That’s about $24 billion less than what the Pentagon requested.
Congress may add some of that money back in. An increase to $554 billion would represent growth of about 4.5 percent in nominal terms, or about 2.5 percent after adjusting for inflation, Daggett said.
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