By TIMOTHY R. HOMAN
Sequester savings are being clawed back–and defense contractors are having a party.
Earlier this month the White House submitted a $3.9 trillion budget to Congress that called for a $3.8 billion decrease in procurement spending for fiscal 2015 compared with current levels. Now the administration is requesting a separate $8.7 billion for weapons.
When the White House released its budget proposal, the Obama administration also introduced a $56 billion spending package known as the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, which would provide an equal amount of funding for defense and non-defense programs. Details of the plan are now trickling out, and about one-third of the funds proposed for the Pentagon would be used to ramp up procurement spending, according to Air Force Times.
That’s on top of the $496 billion Pentagon budget request from the Obama administration.
The additional military funding in the initiative would be used in fiscal 2015 “to try buy back some of the readiness and modernization that we’ve lost over the past two years because of the huge, abrupt cuts,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee this month, referring to the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.
However, adding in the initiative request would increase base funding for defense programs by 5 percent compared with current levels, according to National Priorities Project, a budget transparency organization.
“Relative to domestic programs like education and environmental protection, the Pentagon is in a better position to absorb budget cuts,” the Northampton, Massachusetts-based group said on its website. “In the decade following Sept. 11, 2001, military spending grew by 35 percent, while domestic discretionary spending grew by 12 percent.”
Funding for military procurement is higher than it was 10 years ago, though spending levels have declined significantly since exceeding $160 billion in fiscal 2008, according to figures from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The White House said its initiative would be paid for by limiting tax deductions for millionaires and imposing what’s known as a “financial crisis responsibility fee” on banks. Congress would have to approve the measure.
Lawmakers in Washington, even staunch supporters of the Defense Department, aren’t optimistic that Congress will find a way to make that happen.
“I think that’s in the realm of ‘I think that would be wonderful but it’s not going to happen,’” McKeon told Hagel on March 6 during the Defense secretary’s testimony.