Report Of Major Cuts To Funding For Military Operations In Future Years

Last Updated Jul 29, 2009 10:37 AM EDT

When Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates submitted their 2010 budget to the Hill they left out all plans for 2011 and out. Normally the budget shows the current year, the next planned year and then five out years. The idea is to show Congress how a program will grow or shrink as it transitions through the phase of the acquisition cycle and allow them to properly budget for the planned year. The 2010 budget did not do this and Congress is really only working on the one year.

Now Congressional Quarterly is reporting that Gates is planning for a budget that remains flat for the next five years. This means that there will be no real growth in the defense budget beyond inflation. Since 2001 there have been significant increases each year in defense spending driven by the pace of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as investment in new equipment for those operations. There was no plan in the 2002 budget to spend several billion dollars on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles or armor plate for HUMVEES.

The report also says that Gates plans to invest $60 billion in new programs. This is beyond what is currently laid into the budget for R&D and procurement. Now some of it may come from the end of F-22 production or the Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) budget but the majority will have to come out of other parts of the budget.

Since the bulk of the budget is personnel costs and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) money that means the only way to free up these dollars is either to reduce the size of the military, reduce their benefits or cut out operations or readiness. In the Seventies the U.S. military went through this as well as the Vietnam War wound down and Carter had other priorities. Not only was the military not getting new equipment there was no money for training or keeping what they had running. These kind of cuts lead to a bad situation for the military.

It may be that the decline in Iraq alone could cover the $12 billion a year, or Congress could still provide more funds then the President requests. The situation may not be as dire as it could be spun. Unfortunately without seeing the full budget documents it will be hard to tell until that time what the path for the U.S. military is. Like the $2 billion saved with the end of the F-22 when the Federal Government is spending over a trillion dollars on "Stimulus" and economic rescue programs even $12 billion doesn't seem like much.

If this really is the plan for Obama the fight over defense spending may get a great deal uglier then it already is. The effect on the economy and U.S. military capability might also be highly negative. At the same time this could be overblown until more details come out about the future budget.

  • Matthew Potter

    Matthew Potter is a resident of Huntsville, Ala., where he works supporting U.S. Army aviation programs. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he began work as a defense contractor in Washington D.C. specializing in program management and budget development and execution. In the last 15 years Matthew has worked for several companies, large and small, involved in all aspects of government contracting and procurement. He holds two degrees in history as well as studying at the Defense Acquisition University. He has written for Seeking Alpha and at his own website, DefenseProcurementNews.com.