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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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Cutting Without Saying It

The House Budget Committee released today what is essentially the Republican alternative to the President’s budget—provided the committee and chamber approve it.  And it shows the continuing rhetorical resonance of defense even while it demonstrates defense spending will be decreasing this year.

The Republican budget freezes defense* at this year’s levels.  That means $3.7B more in FY13 for defense than the President’s budget.  But although more than the President’s request, it is still less in real terms than FY12 because a freeze allows inflation to eat away some buying power.

Interestingly, the President’s budget cut DoD by $4B, but increased nuclear-related spending and held other defense-related activities roughly even.  So if the other parts were held steady, the Republican budget would almost—but not quite—restore the nominal cut to DoD.  In the outyears, the Republican budget lets defense increase pretty steadily, although outyears are easy to play with since they’ll be relegislated next year.  So the Republican budget, like the President’s request, actually acknowledges defense is going down this year even as all the hortatory language says defense is special.

Both the President’s and the Republicans’ budget walks away from the 050 cap as currently set by the Budget Control Act.  Although that probably has less to do with real policy suggestions, as an acknowledgement by both sides that whatever happens next fall to turn off sequester is going to be what drives the final FY13 numbers.  In that vein, the Republican budget is yet another proposal to decouple the defense sequester from the expiring tax cuts.

* Because this is a budget committee product, defense means budget function 050, which includes not just DoD but some nuclear funding at DoE and other defense-related funding like Coast Guard and FBI funds.