Pentagon budget highlights cuts and consolidation
By Larry Shaughnessy
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) — The Pentagon on Wednesday released a proposed $526.6 billion budget for fiscal 2014 that relies heavily on cuts in weapons programs and infrastructure.
The Defense proposal, part of the Obama administration’s full budget rollout, is an increase of just $1.2 billion from the prior year.
Under the plan, the budget would terminate “lower-priority and poorly performing weapons programs,” according to a statement from the department.
The Pentagon also says it intends to look into consolidating its existing defense infrastructure and combining military treatment facilities.
The proposal also calls for another round of base closures and consolidation in 2015, a program known as Base Realignment and Closing, or BRAC. That will likely trigger debate on Capitol Hill because the last effort to consolidate bases, in 2005, is still costing Defense than it’s saving.
“BRAC is a comprehensive and fair tool that allows communities a role in re-use decisions by them for their property and provides it redevelopment assistance,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at a briefing. “This process is an imperfect process and there are upfront costs for BRAC.”
“This budget adds $2.4 billion over the next five years to pay for those costs but in the long term, there are significant savings, as we’ve seen from past BRAC decisions,” Hagel added.
The Pentagon won’t see a return on the cost of the 2005 effort until 2018, a department source said. At that rate, a new base closing initiative would be a drain on the Defense budget until at least 2028.
The department said the budget also”slows the growth of military pay and benefits. But it does not reduce the number of soldiers or Marines any further than had been planned for the past several months.
“These changes, which have the strong support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, save about $1.4 billion in FY 2014 and a total of $12.8 billion over the next five years,” Hagel said.
The army is aiming for 490,000 soldiers and the Marine Corps is set to get its numbers down to 182,000.
The proposed budget seeks to sidestep the contentious issue of forced budget cuts known as the sequester.
“Unfortunately, FY 2014 programs will be significantly and adversely affected by sequester budget cuts in FY 2013,” the release said. “Training cutbacks, civilian furloughs, deferral of equipment and facility maintenance…will inevitably have rippling effects into FY 2014.,” the release said.
The Pentagon said the president’s proposal includes enough deficit reduction plans to would allow Congress to replace and repeal any reductions forced by the sequester.
There is no “war budget” in this request. The so-called Overseas Contingencies Operation was delayed by the planning for troop levels in Afghanistan completed just this February. The request will be sent to Congress “in coming weeks.”
Spending on many of the Pentagon’s most expensive new weapons systems will decrease under this proposal compared to what was spent on the programs in 2012.
For example, for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the department’s most expensive weapons program, the budget calls for spending $8.4 billion down from the $9.1 billion spent on the F-35 in 2012.
Spending on the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft is down to $1.8 billion in the proposal compared to $2.8 billion in 2012.
And the Pentagon is proposing spending less on its most high-profile unmanned aircraft, the Predator, Reaper and Global Hawk. Spending on the three drones will be down to $2.06 billion in this budget compared to the $3.6 billion spent in 2012.
Spending is up on some systems, including the C-130 cargo jet, the KC-46A midair refueling tanker and the Littoral Combat Ship, a new class of warship designed to fight in shallow waters such as harbors or rivers.
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