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“Modest reforms to pay and compensation will improve readiness and modernization. It will help keep our all-volunteer force sustainable and strong. Keeping faith also means investing sufficient resources so that we can uphold our sacred obligations to defend the nation and to send our sons and daughters to war with only the best training, leadership and equipment. We can’t shrink from our obligations to one another. The stakes are too high.”

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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Recalibrating to Reality

The Senate is currently debating the annual defense authorization bill – but not the one reported in June. Instead they're debating a new version that provides $21B less than the old one.  As we pointed out, that earlier effort--though slightly less than the President's request--was way above the FY11 level.  Now that the defense builddown is here, significant year on year increases were never likely to fly, but the August BCA caps on security definitively ruled this increase out.  This time around, SASC is authorizing $527.3B for DoD — about $2B less in nominal terms than DoD received in FY11.

Authorization do-overs might make your head spin, but the confusion doesn’t end here.  CBO points out, as have we, that the shifts from base to OCO titles that we’ve already seen in the Senate appropriations bill makes it tough to make exact year by year comparisons:

It is difficult to know, however, if those comparisons are accurate because of the uncertainties inherent in allocating costs between base budget activities and OCO-related activities. For example, the $116.8 billion that would be authorized by [the new Senate bill] for OCO contains about $8 billion for programs and activities requested by the Administration—and that would be authorized by [the old Senate bill]—for “base budget” costs.

This is going to be a continuing problem as long as war costs aren’t accounted for in the Budget Control Act’s caps, but the bill still is another sign that the builddown is well underway.