President Obama has directed the Department of Defense to cut $450B+ over 10 years starting with its FY13 budget. [This will cut the base defense budget – and was part of the 2 Aug deficit reduction agreement with Congress.] It looks like the cut will be laid into the budget on a, more or less, flat line basis, e.g. $45B per year. The Air Force portion of that is not yet fully known, but if trends continue, it will be $11B - $13B per year – perhaps more. Once again, this does not include wartime spending – which is still off-budget.
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is tasked to come up with $1.5 Trillion in cuts over 10 years. If it fails, then an automatic cut kicks in which will cut $1.2 Trillion in spending. Half of this must come from “national security” accounts – DOD, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy, and a bit from the State Department. I estimate DOD’s share would be about $450B+. This is in addition to the $450B+ in the paragraph above.
A few observations: First, the $1.5 Trillion to be cut is only a cut in the growth in spending. The federal budget is expected to grow – during the next 10 years – by about $12 Trillion by some estimates. Thus a cut in the growth in government of $1.5 Trillion is only a cut of 12%. At the end of 10 years, if nothing else is done, the US debt will still grow from about $15 Trillion to $25.5 Trillion.
Secondly, to take almost a trillion dollars out of defense spending in the next 10 years would call for draconian cuts. It would gut many programs; throw tens of thousands of troops out of work; cause major force reductions; and necessitate closing bases. Our allies would begin to question our commitments in both conventional and extended deterrence realms. And, according to some experts, result in a “new isolationism.” I do not need to remind this group that defending our nation is job one for any government. In fact, the Preamble to the Constitution says: “… provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare … “ – and not the other way around. And … base defense spending in the 2012 request amounts to 3.5% of GDP – almost a record post-WWII low. In the aggregate, the defense budget is clearly an affordable investment.
Finally, DOD base defense funding in the FY12 request was $553B. [The Senate Appropriations Committee has marked it to $513B.] The Administration request for HHS was $893B – 1/3 of a Trillion more. This gap is projected to double by 2014. It is interesting to note that HHS spending was $47B in 1977 – just one-twentieth of what it is today.
For your consideration.
Michael M. Dunn
Air Force Association