The House made a big move on defense appropriations last week, but there are interesting stories in the details too. Our own Russell Rumbaugh in reviewing the President’s budget request highlighted that—despite a $4B overall cut—the administration had increased O&M funding by $12B, $10B from moving things that had been in war funding into base funding. A bold move that bucks the trend of the past few years. A little surprisingly, the House appropriations committee mostly went along with the moves in the Army’s budget. The only exception was the committee moved $260M from the base to the war budget for “forward deployed land forces base camps,” according to the committee’s report.
Which isn’t to say the committee didn’t move funding around in these accounts. The two biggest increases were in lines for Base Operations Support (+$523M) and Facilities spending (+$254M), both of which the committee justified by denying the Army’s claims it could achieve efficiencies in those accounts, something we’ve been skeptical of as well. The base to war move paid for some of those increases, and the committee took the rest from funds for combat forces,* for which it said the Army was exaggerating the growth needed in those lines.
The administration had requested $1.6B more for the Army’s combat forces* in the base budget than it had received in FY12 despite the declining topline, again, a significant sign of moving funds from war to base. House approps cut $500M of that growth, but didn’t put it back in the war budget. Though House approps didn’t totally support the administration’s efforts to move funding to the base, House approps didn’t completely dismiss it either, despite the temptations the BCA provides by making war funding free money.
*represented by the Army’s activity group line Land Forces.