Last August the administration announced $350 billion in ten-year defense cuts alongside passage of the Budget Control Act. There’s been a great deal of activity since then – but, looking closely, we still seem to be roughly on track through the 2012 appropriation and the 2013 request.* If the President’s ten-year national defense projections (with a little Stimson Center extrapolation) were implemented, it would come in $341 billion below CBO’s baseline from last August. Since we had to estimate several years, being in right savings vicinity is enough.
Whether we stay on this path, of course, is a separate issue. Seeing our way to the goal got easier after January 15th when BCA caps reset from a general security category – the Pentagon, NNSA, VA, DHS, and international affairs – to a revised, narrower category of just national defense whose caps were $353 billion lower than CBO’s baseline. Yet, while proposing to keep us on the path in 2013, the administration simultaneously raised new complications by ignoring those revised caps in its request and proposing to “restore the original framework for discretionary spending limits.”
This raises some new questions. Will Congress allow the administration to disregard the revised BCA caps? If it does, many trade-offs between defense and international affairs will reopen. Should that happen, will this administration and later ones stay on the $350 billion cut path absent legislative language to prod it?
* This exercise uses the President’s request for discretionary national defense budget authority, and the savings are calculated against the August 2011 CBO baseline, which came out within days of the Budget Control Act. OMB’s national defense numbers run only through 2017, but it does provide Pentagon figures for the whole ten years. Out-year national defense values are estimated based on the average ratio between Pentagon (SFn 051) and national defense (Fn 050) between 2014-2017. The ten years in question are 2012-2021.