DOD Budget Request Reflects ‘Great Uncertainty,’ Officials Say
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 10, 2013 The $526.6 billion defense base budget request included in President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal reflects “great uncertainty,” but maintains national defense strategy and Pentagon leaders’ commitment to careful use of taxpayer dollars, according to Defense Department budget request documents released today.
“Even while restructuring the force to become smaller and leaner and once again targeting overhead savings, this budget [request] made important investments in the president’s new strategic guidance -- including rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region and increasing funding for critical capabilities such as cyber, special operations and global mobility,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel noted in a written statement issued today.
The budget request largely is consistent with 2013’s, and it calls for a round of base realignment and closure, savings in managing military medical treatment facilities, cuts in low-priority and poorly performing weapons programs and slowed growth in military pay and benefits.
The Pentagon statement accompanying the request notes the fiscal 2013 sequester cuts will mean training cutbacks, civilian furloughs, maintenance delays and deployment curtailments that “will inevitably have rippling effects into [fiscal] 2014.” The statement notes the president’s budget request “includes balanced deficit reduction proposals that … allow Congress to replace and repeal the sequester-related reductions” required by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The fiscal 2014 request doesn’t include a request for overseas contingency operations funding, which together with the base budget request make up the defense top-line funding proposal. OCO funding primarily covers operations in Afghanistan.
“Decisions regarding force levels in Afghanistan were delayed until February of this year to provide commanders time to assess wartime needs fully,” the Pentagon statement said. “A separate OCO request is being prepared and will be submitted to Congress in the coming weeks.”
The base budget request asks for $209.4 billion for operations and maintenance; $137.1 billion for military personnel; $99.3 billion for procurement; $67.5 billion in research, development, testing and evaluation; $11 billion for military construction and $2.3 billion in other costs.
By department, the budget request assigns $155.8 billion to the Navy, $144.4 billion to the Air Force, $129.7 billion to the Army and $96.7 billion to other defense activities.
Military compensation in the 2014 request includes a proposed 1 percent pay raise and housing and subsistence allowance increases to 4.2 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.
Today’s statement noted the request includes some changes in military health care enrollment fees and pharmacy co-pays that Congress denied last year. Those proposals, which largely involve retiree health insurance fees, have been modified to accommodate concerns expressed by Congress, officials said.
The 2014 budget request also includes a proposal for base realignment and closure in 2015, though Congress rejected the Pentagon’s BRAC request last year.
“BRAC is the only effective means of achieving infrastructure consolidation,” today’s statement notes. “This BRAC round adds $2.4 billion to costs in the next five years, but would eventually save substantial sums. The actual closing of bases would involve a multiyear process that would not start until 2016, after the economy is projected to have more fully recovered.”
Officials noted the fiscal 2014 request further aligns defense programs to support the nation’s strategic emphasis on the Asia-Pacific and Middle East.
Requested funds supporting the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region will be used to harden airfields, support critical strike capabilities such as bombers and F-22 squadrons, develop Guam as a strategic hub and strengthen regional partnerships, officials said.
The request continues funding for three variants of the F-35 joint strike fighter and asks for $10.9 billion for new ship construction, $9.2 billion for missile defenses and $379 million for the ongoing development of a new penetrating bomber.
Other critical investments the request supports, officials said, include $4.7 billion for cyberspace operations, $10.1 billion for space capabilities, and $2.5 billion in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
Officials said the fiscal 2014 request supports efforts to set a new readiness posture for the post-Afghanistan period, emphasizing regional alignment, full-spectrum training and readiness, global capabilities and ongoing presence operations.
“Despite the critical importance of this [readiness] goal, sequestration cuts in [fiscal 2013] -- combined with issues relating to funding of wartime operations -- place it in jeopardy,” officials noted in budget request documents released today.
“The large shortfalls in fiscal year 2013 operating funds will force the military services to shut down training for some units, which will seriously harm readiness,” officials said. “Unless sequestration is replaced soon, the degraded readiness in fiscal year 2013 may leave the military unable to meet its readiness goals for fiscal year 2014.”