CBO Report: Pentagon budget cuts not drastic

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 103 views 

The Pentagon’s basic budget for next year will be larger than in 2006 when adjusted for inflation even if automatic budget cuts take effect, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Department of Defense’s $526 billion request for fiscal 2013, not including war spending, reflects a reduction of $45 billion from previous plans. If automatic cuts known as sequestration take effect in January, the funding would be further reduced to $469 billion, the nonpartisan CBO said in a report released Wednesday (July 11).

“Accommodating those automatic reductions could be difficult for the department to manage because it would need to be achieved in only nine months — between the cuts taking effect and the end of the fiscal year,” the congressional budget analysts wrote.

“Even with that cut, however, DoD’s base budget in 2013 would still be larger than it was in 2006,” when calculated in 2013 dollars.

The CBO report buttresses the view of some independent budget analysts, such as Gordon Adams of the Stimson Center in Washington and Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, that sequestration wouldn’t be the short- term budget disaster described by Pentagon and defense industry officials.

The independent analysts said the automatic cuts would essentially reverse the buildup after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars that followed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Even with the sequester, we will be going back to roughly 2007 levels of spending in defense dollars,” Adams said last month at a defense conference sponsored by Bloomberg Government. “And while it’s a very ugly way to get to that level, it is not the end of the world.”

The Congressional Budget Office said defense spending in fiscal 2013 if the automatic cuts take effect also would remain “larger than the average base budget during the 1980s” in the Reagan-era defense buildup.

The defense cuts are part of $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board reductions to domestic and national-security programs that will start in January if Congress and President Barack Obama don’t act to avert them. The cuts were imposed after talks failed last year on a bipartisan plan to curb the nation’s soaring debt.

Even without sequestration, the Pentagon faces a shortfall in delivering on its announced plans, the CBO said. It estimated the Pentagon’s program for fiscal 2013 to 2017 will cost $123 billion, or 5% more than planned, to execute.

The costs of replacing and modernizing weapons systems “would grow sharply during the next several years, from $168 billion in 2013 to $212 billion in 2018” in inflation-adjusted terms, a 26% increase, the CBO found.