President Barack Obama is asking Congress to provide $526.6 billion in defense spending for fiscal 2014, a figure that does not include war-funding details or the continuing effects of across-the-board budget cuts that start in fiscal 2013.
Over 10 years, the request sent to Capitol Hill on April 10 would trim $150 billion from previous spending plans for the military, with most of the reductions coming in later years. The reductions are a part of the president’s proposal for trimming the deficit which, if adopted by Congress, could repeal the Budget Control Act of 2011 that set in motion nearly $1 trillion in across-the-board budget cuts over the next decade.
But with no guarantee of Congress actually taking up Obama’s proposal or reaching a compromise on deficit reduction, uncertainty will continue to surround Pentagon spending levels as lawmakers fight over the details included in the budget.
“Unfortunately, [fiscal] 2014 programs will be significantly and adversely affected by sequester budget cuts in [fiscal] 2013,” says a Pentagon press statement.
Defense Secretary Check Hagel stressed that the Pentagon is preparing for the reality of continued across-the-board budget cuts, starting with a $41 billion reduction this year. “I don’t think anyone is minimizing the result of sequestration as a law,” Hagel says. “We are planning for every eventuality.”
That, he says, is why he directed Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to work on a strategic review to mitigate some of the uncertainty.
The budget will save $8.2 billion from terminating and restructuring weapons systems over the next five years, Hagel says. He counts $2 billion in savings on development costs by restructuring the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle program. Other terminations include the Precision Tracking Space System.
In all, the fiscal 2014 base budget seeks $99.3 billion for procurement accounts, a reduction of about 1%, according to Robert Stallard, an analyst for RBC Europe Limited. The Pentagon is requesting $67.5 billion for research and development efforts, a cut of 3.6% from the previous year. That includes decisions that are sure to draw fire from lawmakers and defense companies, including stopping the purchase ofBlock 30 and 40 UAVs, aircraft and truncating the purchase of Lakota Helicopters.
But the tiffs with Congress won’t end there. In the coming years, the Pentagon is proposing to control costs by revising missile defense programs, closing bases, reforming the military health care system, restructuring the cost of the contractor and civilian workforce and controlling health care costs.
Lawmakers have shut down previous Pentagon efforts to change every one of those items.
Despite the apparent futility of requesting another round of base closures and realignments, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale says the military will keep at it. “It seems to me we have to keep asking,” Hale says. “We know we need it. It’s the only way to reduce excess infrastructure.”
Fights over reductions in missile defense funding are already brewing. The fiscal 2014 budget request includes $9.162 billion for missile defense, down by about $500 million in fiscal 2013. That amount reflects the termination of the Precision Tracking Space System, along with the end in fiscal 2013 of the Pentagon’s commitment to develop technology for thewith Italy and Germany.
It also includes a shift in the Pentagon’s long-term plan to shield the U.S. against attacks from North Korea and Iran that was announced last month, which includes the purchase of 14 additional Ground-based Interceptors and dropping the planned final phase of the phased adaptive approach in Europe, the SM-3 Block IIB program.
The reduction in missile defense drew the ire of Republican lawmakers including Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), who says, “while North Korea blusters about nuclear war, the president’s budget falls short of funding missile defense.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Carter told the Center for Strategic and International Studies earlier this week that the budget protects the Pentagon’s strategy to “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region.
With that in mind, the budget will continue to support the development of theJoint Strike Fighter, providing $8.4 billion. It will provide $379 million to develop a long-range bomber, add $10.1 billion for space assets and invest $4.7 billion in cyberspace operations.
Meanwhile, the administration “hopes” to submit a request for war spending to Congress within the next month, according to Robert Hale, the Pentagon’s top budget official.
The overall budget request includes an $88 billion placeholder for Overseas Contingency Operations, but that includes no further detail. That amount is up to $10 billion higher than the military had anticipated, Hale says, because of a higher operational tempo and logistical difficulties.
For continuing, through-the-day coverage of the U.S. budget rollout, Aviation Week Intelligence Network subscribers should click here to visit our fiscal 2014 budget digest page often, where the Aviation Week editorial team will post expert coverage and analysis.