Budget Revisions

/ February 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Listening to Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell's comments at the Defense Department podium this afternoon, one might be left with the impression that DOD was largely looking to shift recurring war costs to the base budget last year when the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the top brass tacked on roughly $60 billion to a draft fiscal year 2010 budget request:

There was an internal exercise done on budgeting matters.

And it reflected two things that are important to note, or three things: number one, the notion of 4 percent of GDP being dedicated to defense spending; number two, trying to be responsive to the desires of the Congress that more and more supplemental spending be moved into the base budget -- and by that, I'm speaking of things like Wounded Warrior, the JIEDDO program, you know, Army and Marine Corps growth, as well as some operational spending to reflect sort of the persistent-presence reality that we find ourselves in; and lastly, and most importantly, it was done at a time in which you could probably go through such an exercise.

That is not exactly a full accounting of the increase the Pentagon sought to allocate to itself last year, in incorporating $57 billion in extra spending on top of the $523 billion which the Bush White House Office of Management and Budget authorized the Pentagon for FY-10.

In fact, recurring war costs amount for probably less than $10 billion of the amount. More than $20 billion would go to fund new aircraft and other weapons, and the largest portion -- more than $30 billion -- would finance activities related to the “long war,” including a boost for JIEDDO. These “long war” spending targets would pay for “presence” missions by all the services that presumed policies on Afghanistan and Iraq by the Obama administration.

For more details on where the Pentagon was planning to spend the extra money, see this story from last fall. We also reported last fall how the $57 billion boost was an effort to boost an inflation-adjusted defense spending plan advanced by the Bush administration built last year that was set to shrink through FY-13.

Last week OMB directed the Pentagon to build its FY-10 budget to the $523 billion topline set by the Bush administration, guidance that will force the Defense Department, in the words of one military official, to “rip the guts” out of the detailed spending proposal prepared for the Obama administration. Morrell said the Pentagon is backing away from its bid to push the FY-10 base budget north of $580 billion.

So this department is well aware of the fact that times are tough, and we are prepared to do the belt-tightening that is required and responsible of us.

He added:

The reality is, the economic situation has deteriorated dramatically since we undertook that exercise, and you can -- we today can probably not be as ambitious as we were in that exercise in moving funding from supplementals into the base budget. But that was an internal exercise, not a proposed budget, and not a starting-off point for any negotiations.

-- Jason Sherman

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