Defense Dodges Bullet in Obama’s Proposed Cuts
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The Fiscal Times
February 14, 2011

The Defense Department emerged largely unscathed from the president’s modest budget cutting exercise, with overall spending for ongoing operations rising to a proposed $553 billion in 2012, up from estimated expenditures of $549 billion this year and substantially ahead of the $530 billion spent in 2010.  

The budget also calls for a substantial drop in supplementary appropriations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will see a combined reduction of 42,000 to 47,000 troops this year if conditions on the ground warrant.

Still, the 2011 budget was very much on Pentagon officials’ minds, since Congress has failed to pass its appropriations bill. Making the military operate under the continuing resolution would result in sharp cuts in Pentagon spending for the rest of the year.

“We won’t have enough funds to meet our national security commitment,” said Robert Hale, the comptroller at the Defense Department.

The president’s budget did spell out $78 billion in cuts in spending over the next five years, but that is taken off previous projections of Pentagon spending. The overall budget represents a small increase in the base budget and a sizable decline in war spending. Total outlays, according to the proposed budget, would rise to $702 billion in 2012, a 6.1 percent increase from 2010 spending but a 4.3 percent decline from 2011.

Secretary Robert Gates in early January announced a series of efficiency measures to hold spending in check after a decade of rapid increases. The measures included cancellation of a new amphibious tank for the Marine Corps, a new Air Force refueling tanker, and minor delays in major weapons procurement programs, including the F-35 joint strike fighter.

The Pentagon also plans to rein in escalating health care costs by raising enrollment fees by $5 a month on the military’s Tricare insurance program and is encouraging greater use of mail order and generic drugs. However, most of those savings were ploughed back into Pentagon operations budgets, such as the cost of routine operations and maintenance, which is slated to rise by $20 billion in 2012.

Click here to read more of The Fiscal Times’ complete coverage of the Obama 2012 Budget.

Related Links
Department of Defense Budget Proposal (Office of Management and Budget)
The Defense Department won the future, or at least the budget (The Washington Post)
Defense Budget Counts on Drawdown in Iraq, Afghanistan (The Wall Street Journal)

spent 25 years as a foreign correspondent, economics writer and investigative business reporter for the Chicago Tribune and other publications. He is the author of the 2004 book, The $800 Million Pill: The Truth Behind the Cost of New Drugs.