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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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Defense Coughs Up Some More Savings

The President’s budget—like the House and Senate budgets—ignores the implementation of sequester, assuming some deal this summer replaces it.  But the budget still reflects the builddown we’re living in by implementing two decisions:

First, the President’s budget matches the pre-sequester caps contained in the amended Budget Control Act (BCA).  That is different than last year’s budget, which assumed Congress would change the law to reflect a security/non-security divide; security being not just DoD but veterans, international affairs, homeland security and other spending and non-security everything else.  This year it accepts the budget really will be decided on a defense/non-defense basis.  And it accepts the cap level, which required trimming $36B over ten years from last year’s DoD request.*  But it means we have this funny situation where the budget is acknowledging one part of statute but ignoring another—sequester—since the caps it matches don’t include the automatic reductions that are already the law of the land.  

Second, the budget trims another $114B from DoD over ten years to help provide defense’s share of the offset the President has offered as part of his plan to replace sequester.  Those cuts don’t start until FY17—three years from now—and in the President’s budget are expressed as lower statutory spending caps.  But those cuts are real savings.  Or as real as projected savings can be.  The first cut of $36B isn’t real savings because its just a decrement from a request, which wasn’t approved in any way by Congress.  The $114B cut is a cut from the current statutory caps and has the effect of actually decreasing deficit and debt projections.

Nobody needs telling anymore, but this budget is yet another step in the gradual decline that turns into a defense builddown in retrospect.  

* These figures are calculated assuming DoD’s share of the 050 cap is 96%, DoD’s traditional share of 050.  But that is an assumption not mandated by law.