(Michael Gottschalk / Agence France-Presse)
The U.S. military services would be forced to slash the accounts they tap to buy aircraft, vehicles, ships and ammunition by 9.4 percent each if Congress and the White House fail to reach a deficit-reduction accord, according to a White House report to Congress released Sept. 14.
Overall, the Pentagon would be forced to reduce its base budget by $54.7 billion in fiscal 2013, according to the report. The beefy 396-page report provides the first official details of how each federal agency would be hit if a process known as sequestration is allowed to occur on Jan. 2.
The $54.7 billion cut to planned Defense Department spending in 2013 would be the first tranche of a $500 billion, 10-year reduction in planned Pentagon spending mandated under a debt-reduction law agreed to in 2011 by Congress and the Obama administration. That same law mandated an equal amount of cuts to domestic programs.
The figures are based on 2012 funding levels and are subject to change.
For procurement accounts, the Navy would be forced to shrink its $23.8 billion aircraft account by $2.2 billion, and its shipbuilding account of $22.7 billion by $2.1 billion.
The Army’s $8.9 billion aircraft procurement account would deflate by $843 million, and its tracked vehicle account, now at $2.9 billion, would shrink by $276 million. The ground service’s $1.8 billion missile-purchasing account would become $169 million smaller.
The Marine Corps’ overall $3.9 billion procurement account would become $366 million smaller.
For the Air Force, its $21.4 billion aircraft-buying account would take a $2 billion hit, while its $7.1 billion missile procurement account would become $668 million smaller.
Each service’s account labeled “other” and “ammunition” also would shrink by 9.4 percent next year, as would the services’ research, development, test and evaluation accounts.
And, notably, the services’ individual operations and maintenance (O&M) coffers would shrink by the same amount. Defense officials have warned O&M cuts could hinder troop training on tactics they have not used during a decade of largely counterinsurgency missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lawmakers have three-and-a-half months to prevent that, either by passing legislation that would trim the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion, or via a special bill voiding or replacing the planned Pentagon budget shrinkage. The latter appears unlikely during the final months of this Congress, with House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saying on the lower chamber floor Sept. 13 that congressional Democrats will block any bill that attempts to void or replace just the Pentagon cuts; Democratic leaders want a broader debt-reduction bill.
“While the Department of Defense would be able to shift funds to ensure war fighting and critical military readiness capabilities were not degraded,” stated the White House report, “sequestration would result in a reduction in readiness of many non-deployed units, delays in investments in new equipment and facilities, cutbacks in equipment repairs, declines in military research and development efforts, and reductions in base services for military families.”
The much-anticipated report reflects the political environment of a presidential election year, stating bluntly: “The administration does not support these cuts.” The same passage immediately shifts blame to lawmakers — with the implication that Republicans are to blame — by adding: “But unless Congress acts responsibly, there will be no choice but to implement them.”
In short, congressional Republicans are attempting to put all the blame on Obama, while the White House is trying to convince voters the GOP is at fault.
The House has approved several measures that would void the defense cuts only, including one approved on Sept. 13. That bill, introduced by Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., would require the president to replace the defense cuts with reductions in domestic non-defense programs cherished by Democrats. It is unlikely the Senate will take up that measure, and the White House already has signaled Obama would veto it.
“We are prepared to work with the president on alternatives to achieve the same goal of replacing the sequester with cuts to lower priority spending programs, while protecting members of the armed services, our national security, important domestic programs and our fragile economy,” West said in a statement after the House vote.
—Rick Maze contributed to this report.