by Laicie Heeley [contact information]
Click here (PDF) for the Center’s Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Spending Request Briefing Book
A portion of the briefing book (The Fiscal Year 2015 Budget in Context) is below:
The Obama administration has requested a base defense budget of $495.6 billion for fiscal year 2015. This is approximately equal to the FY14 base budget approved by Congress. It does not, however, include money for the war in Afghanistan or nuclear weapons programs housed at the Department of Energy.
In addition to the base budget, the President’s request includes a placeholder of $79.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), to continue to fight the war in Afghanistan. As in the FY14 request, the administration has noted that the number is only a placeholder. This hold will continue pending the approval of a deal with Afghanistan that would allow some level of NATO forces to remain in the country beyond the end of the year, after which a detailed war request will be submitted.
Although the President has directed the Pentagon to begin planning for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, in the past , falling troop levels have not necessarily led to a corresponding decrease in spending. Despite the fact that troop levels in Afghanistan dropped 40 percent between 2013 and 2014, DoD’s spending request declined by just 10 percent, from $88.5 billion in 2013 to $79.4 billion in 2014. In past years, this additional spending has been used to supplement the Pentagon’s base budget, since the OCO request is not subject to the Budget Control Act (BCA) budget caps.
While the FY15 budget does make some strides in recognizing the constraints of the BCA, the Future Years Defense Plan exceeds the revised BCA caps by approximately $115 billion. Combined with the likely continued use of OCO to supplement base funding, the FY15 budget still stretches the limits of what the Pentagon can spend under current law.
In addition to an initial $575 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and the war in Afghanistan, the Administration has requested approximately $18 billion for nuclear weapons activities at the Department of Energy and $7.7 billion for additional non-Pentagon defense related activities.
This brings total Pentagon defense related spending to approximately $600.7 billion. This number, however, excludes an additional $26 billion “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative.” If approved by Congress, the Pentagon’s appeal would be paid for through a mix of tax and spending reforms. According to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the funding would be used “to try to buy back some of the readiness and modernization that we’ve lost over the last two years because of the huge abrupt cuts” included in the sequester. The request reportedly includes money primarily for training, facilities upkeep and maintenance, and aircraft including 3 Navy C-40s, 10 Air Force C-130s and 28 Army Blackhawk helicopters. While the Pentagon has expressed its desire for the additional funding, the request has fallen mostly on deaf ears. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon said he was not “paying attention” to the prospect of the extra money “because I think that’s in the realm of ‘it would be wonderful, but it’s not going to happen.’”
This isn’t the only proposal DoD might have a hard time getting through Congress, however. The Pentagon’s request assumes significant savings over five years from a theoretical Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round in 2017 that Congress is unlikely to permit, thereby understating the amount which the proposal exceeds sequestration limits. Proposals to eliminate the Air Force’s fleet of A-10 Warthogs, cap pay raises for troops at 1 percent and freeze pay for general officers, and shrink the U.S. Army to pre-World War II levels will also run up against steep opposition from Members of Congress who have opposed similar changes in the past.
The Pentagon has said that it will also offer a separate, sequestration-level budget, in the event that Congress rejects the higher spending plan — but not without first making its wish list known.