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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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BCA fingerprints on Senate 302(b)

Two 2012 budgets have now been overcome by events: the President’s request, which was dead on arrival, and the House appropriations, whose theatrics were soon dated by the Budget Control Act (BCA).  Now we have Senate appropriators’ top-line limits (i.e., 302bs), just released on Wednesday.  They are the best indicator of how the BCA will work, partly because they’re the only plan proposed since the BCA passed and, more importantly, because its fingerprints are so apparent on them. 

The BCA mandates savings of at least $4 billion from the security category* in FY12 relative to FY11.   Senate appropriators mostly meet that target with a $3.5 billion cut to the State-Foreign Operations subcommittee.  An additional $1.29 billion trim spread between the Homeland Security ($666 million) and Military Construction-VA ($618 million) subcommittees rounds out the cuts.

Only the Defense subcommittee is left entirely untouched - Senate appropriators froze it exactly at its FY11 value of $513 billion. 

VA, meanwhile, gets an uptick.  It notionally could absorb the $0.62 billion MILCON-VA cut, of course, but the subcommittee has already reported a bill reducing the military construction and family housing titles by $2.9 billion in order to finance a $2.1 billion VA increase.  The Senate Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee also grabbed $528 million for an NNSA increase, and the Agriculture panel got another $51 million for food aid programs that fall within the diaspora of international affairs. 

As for exactly how all this lines up with the BCA cap, a few apples-to-oranges comparisons still stand in the way – especially how to line up the DHS budget with the homeland security subcommittee’s top-line and International Affairs budget with the State/Foreign Ops subcommittee’s top-line.  Questions for another day, unfortunately.

* The BCA security category in FY12 is composed of the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security along with the Intelligence Community Management Account, the National Nuclear Security Administration budget sub-function, and the International Affairs budget function.