Blog, 541 words

Military Cuts Don’t Translate into Less Spending

Here's a quick guide to what the Pentagon wants to do.

Mattea Kramer

After Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave a major speech at the Pentagon, The New York Times declared that the Pentagon would shrink the Army to pre-World War II levels. While he did announce an intention to reduce a number of military programs, the Pentagon isn’t planning major reductions in spending any time soon.

What exactly did Hagel announce?

Personnel

The Pentagon’s new budget, slated to be rolled out in full during the first week of March, will call for shrinking the number of active-duty troops in the Army from 520,000 to between 440,000 and 450,000. The Army National Guard would also decrease in size, shedding around 20,000 members, while the Army Reserve would lose around 10,000 and the Marine Corps would shrink by 8,000. The proposal would, however, add 4,000 members to the ranks of special operations.

esgcollins-pentagon-Official U.S. Air Force

Official U.S. Air Force/Flickr

The new budget would freeze pay for flag officers and generals — a recognition that the military has become top-heavy, with swollen ranks of highly-paid generals and other top officials.

Benefits for active duty personnel and their families also would be reduced, as Hagel acknowledged that payroll costs at the Pentagon have increased 40 percent more than in the private sector. His new proposal includes slowing the growth in the housing allowance for military personnel and reducing subsidies for household goods at military commissaries. And in an effort to contain healthcare costs for military personnel, service members and their families would see higher deductibles and co-pays in their TRICARE health insurance.

Weapons and Bases

The new proposal includes some changes to weapons programs, including eliminating the Air Force A-10 attack jet and the U-2 spy plane fleet, and reducing the number of Navy littoral combat ships, from 52 to 32. The Pentagon didn’t propose any reductions to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is the costliest system in military history and still has never flown in any military operation.

The budget also asks Congress to approve a new round of military base realignment and closure (BRAC) in 2017.

Actual Spending Projections

Despite all of these changes, the new Pentagon budget doesn’t project a commensurate decline in spending. Back in December Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray agreed on a budget blueprint that would allow military spending to grow slightly in fiscal 2015 relative to 2014 and 2013. On top of that, Secretary Hagel’s speech comes at a time when the president is proposing an additional $26 billion on top of that December agreement. That extra cash would support an “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative” that would fund “readiness and modernization” efforts. This extra funding is essentially a Pentagon wish list that would continue to protect the military from making any significant spending reductions in the near future.

Meanwhile, new five-year spending projections at the Pentagon show that it plans to exceed the spending caps of sequestration by $115 billion over the next five years. What’s more, the Pentagon receives many tens of billions in additional funding to operate wars overseas, and that money isn’t subject to caps. In fiscal 2014 that war budget, known officially as “Overseas Contingency Operations,” totaled $85 billion — and is being widely criticized for containing funding that wasn’t actually meant for war operations but instead would function as a slush fund for the Pentagon.

Mattea Kramer is Research Director at National Priorities Project and the lead author of the book A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget. NationalPriorities.org
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

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  • Observer609

    In other words- a verbal fig leaf is conjured up from time to time, to cover the complete lack of any reliable oversight, accountability, organizational financial control, or even any effective reporting mechanism? Yeeesh!

  • Aquarama

    You wrote that without stating the size of the defense budget. That data is necessary.

  • lostinbago

    NEWSPEAK:Military Cuts

    In the real world: I don’t need to editorialize beyond just cut and paste.
    “The Pentagon didn’t propose any reductions to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is the costliest system in military history and still has never flown in any military operation.”

    “Back in December Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray agreed on a budget blueprint that would allow military spending to grow slightly in fiscal 2015 relative to 2014 and 2013.”

    Meanwhile, new five-year spending projections at the Pentagon show that it plans to exceed the spending caps of sequestration by $115 billion over the next five years. What’s more, the Pentagon receives many tens of billions in additional funding to operate wars overseas, and that money isn’t subject to caps. In fiscal 2014 that war budget, known officially as “Overseas Contingency Operations,” totaled $85 billion — and is being widely criticized for containing funding that wasn’t actually meant for war operations but instead would function as a slush fund for the Pentagon.

  • unamous

    tuna

  • unamous

    shit on my face

  • Jerry

    Clear case of defense industry lobby manipulation. They want us to remain under the umbrella of fear the Bush Cheny war machine opened after 9/11. Let’s keep those profits rolling! Many Congressional members have stocks and interests in defense industry companies. I’ll say no more.