by Doug Hall, Ph.D., Lindsay Koshgarian, and Jasmine Tucker
President Obama today released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2016 (which runs October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016), his first on-time proposal since 2011. The $4 trillion spending and tax proposal includes funding that would provide two years of tuition-free community college for students, investments in job training and early education, as well as substantial increases in military spending.
The new budget contains initiatives that would be widely popular with the American people based on opinion polling. With an emphasis on job training and job creation, education, and a reduction in corporate and other tax loopholes, the president has released a budget that reflects Americans’ priorities.
Here are highlights of what the Obama budget contains:
Total Spending, and What’s New
President Obama proposed a total of $4 trillion in spending in fiscal 2016, an inflation-adjusted increase of around 1 percent relative to 2015 enacted spending levels.
The budget includes new spending of $60 billion over 10 years to allow students to attend community college tuition-free and would expand access to prekindergarten education, funded by new taxes on tobacco products. It also includes $478 billion over six years for infrastructure repairs, and other job creation measures. According to opinion polls, expanding education funding and improving the job situation are initiatives that enjoy strong support among the American public.
Notably, the President’s proposal calls for funding above the levels called for in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Under current law, spending above those levels would trigger across-the-board spending cuts known as “sequestration.” Congress’ two-year deal that replaced Budget Control Act spending limits with higher amounts expires this year.
Military and War
The budget proposal would spend $612 billion on national defense, including funding for the Pentagon, the war budget, nuclear weapons and other related expenses. This represents a $26 billion, or 4.5 percent, increase over the 2015 enacted level. This spending also exceeds the caps set by the Budget Control Act by $38 billion, setting Congress up for showdowns that pin defense hawks against deficit hawks.
The budget includes $534 billion for the Department of Defense base budget, a figure that does not include war costs of nuclear weapons activities at the Department of Energy. That represents $38 billion more — a more than 7 percent increase — relative to 2015 Pentagon spending. Among other things, it includes funding for 57 F-35s fighter jets – a big increase over the 38 F-35s authorized in fiscal year 2015, despite the fact that the planes are billions over budget, years behind schedule, and not yet battle ready.
In addition, the Department of Defense would receive a separate budget for war activities known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The president requests $51 billion for Department of Defense war spending, even as troop levels in Afghanistan decline – and only $5.3 billion of that is set aside for operations against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, ISIL). The war budget is not subject to funding caps or sequestration cuts, and billions of dollars in the war budget have been widely referred to as a “slush fund.”
This represents a high-water mark for Pentagon spending – the proposed base budget of $534 billion would be the highest in history, and the proposed total Pentagon spending level is higher than any under President Reagan.