By Tila Neguse and Devon Grayson-Wallace
This morning, President Obama released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2015. While many of the more specific details will not be released until next week, here’s a quick look at his overall plan:
The President’s budget would provide $495.6 billion for the Department of Defense base budget in 2015. This amount is within the levels agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. As Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel mentioned in his speech last week, the President’s budget would:
- Propose a round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in 2017
- Reduce the number of troops in the Army and Marine Corps
- Retire a few “unneeded” weapons systems, including the Kiowa Warrior helicopter and the A-10 Warthog aircraft
- Cancel the Ground Combat Vehicle Program
This budget request does not include a finite amount for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, or war fund. The budget explains that war in Afghanistan will end in December 2014, but the number of troops to remain there is yet to be determined. So instead of a concrete number for OCO, there is a placeholder equivalent to the President’s 2014 request of $79.4 billion. The official OCO request will come as a budget amendment at a later date. Regardless, as we prepare for our final withdrawal from Afghanistan, the OCO account should be dramatically reduced and eventually eliminated. Just today, FCNL along with 24 other faith groups sent a letter to Congress asking Defense Appropriators to end the OCO fund. We’ll be watching to see if Congress uses OCO spending to ease spending cuts to the Pentagon’s base budget, like they did in 2014.
The President’s budget also adheres to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 caps on the other side of the budget, non-defense discretionary spending. The budget provides some funding to help vulnerable people, such as:
- Send every four-year-old child to preschool
- Increase housing assistance to provide 2.2 million low-income families with Housing Choice Vouchers
- Expand affordable housing for elders and persons with disabilities to 5,000 new households
- Create two new Indian Health Service facilities
- Provide $2 billion to encourage states to adopt “Bridge to Work” programs, which allow people to continue receiving unemployment insurance while participating in a short-term work placement
- Support pilot programs that increase food assistance to low-income families with school-age children in the summer, to make up for the free meals children would receive at school
This year, the President did not include the controversial provision to apply the Chained-CPI cost-of-living-adjustment to Social Security that would reduce benefits. The President would raise Medicare premiums for wealthy seniors and ensure drug companies offer larger discounts on prescription drugs.
The President’s 2015 budget would make a few tax changes to increase credits for low-income people. Among other provisions, this budget would:
- Double the value of the Earned Income Tax Credit that low-income workers without children can receive
- Make the temporary expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit permanent
- Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which helps families of children under the age of 5 to afford child care
Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative
President Obama proposes another $56 billion in discretionary spending for 2015. He is calling this wish list of extra funding the “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative.” The spending would be evenly split between defense and non-defense programs.
On the defense side, the extra money would go to weapons modernization, facility improvements, and restoring “readiness. An extra $26 billion for the Pentagon is not necessary, as the Pentagon has not experienced the deep cuts that non-defense spending has had in recent years. On the non-defense side, this extra money would be spread out between a wide variety of programs, including the National Institutes of Health, manufacturing institutions, climate research, and a new parental leave proposal. This new initiative is meant to promote job creation, education, economic mobility and opportunity, and research and development. However, the increase to Pentagon spending is not necessary. In fact, more investments, like those the President makes on the non-defense side in education and clean energy, produce far more jobs than boosting Pentagon spending.
Look for more analysis and our reactions in the coming weeks, as more details of President Obama’s 2015 budget request are revealed! The President’s budget sets the stage for the rest of the conversation about next year’s federal budget.