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New WH Plan Would Cut $100B From Defense

Mar. 20, 2013 - 12:30PM   |  
By MARCUS WEISGERBER   |   Comments
Obama administration officials are pushing these Defense Department spending cuts, along with an additional $100 billion in nondefense discretionary spending — for a total of $200 billion in cuts — as part of a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan that has been offered to House Republican leadership.
Obama administration officials are pushing these Defense Department spending cuts, along with an additional $100 billion in nondefense discretionary spending — for a total of $200 billion in cuts — as part of a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan that has been offered to House Republican leadership. (Michael Gottschalk / Agence France-Presse)
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WASHINGTON — The White House is preparing to submit a fiscal 2014 federal budget that would partially offset across-the-board sequestration cuts by reducing the Pentagon budget by $100 billion, but not until later this decade, according to a senior defense official and budget documents.

Obama administration officials are pushing these Defense Department spending cuts, along with an additional $100 billion in nondefense discretionary spending — for a total of $200 billion in cuts — as part of a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan that has been offered to House Republican leadership.

The $100 billion in defense cuts would not begin until 2019, according to Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief.

“The president’s budget … does deal with the deficit, it does do the things that need to be done, if it were passed, to avoid sequestration,” he said Wednesday at a National Defense Industrial Association conference in Springfield, Va.

The White House is planning to submit its fiscal 2014 spending plan to Congress on April 8, according to sources.

“The way the president did it was he took $100 billion out of defense, but he took it out [from] the second five years,” Kendall said.

Each year the Pentagon submits a budget to Congress that includes five-year spending estimates. That five-year period is called the future years defense program (FYDP).

“So essentially you have a FYDP that remains intact and we take another $100 billion out beyond the FYDP,” Kendall said. “The same thing more or less [will] be done on the domestic discretionary part; there’s $100 billion that’s taken out.”

A deficit-reduction plan posted on the White House’s website forecasts $600 billion in savings through taxes “from [the] wealthiest [as part of the] fiscal cliff deal” struck in January.

DoD is facing a $500 billion cut over the next decade — about $50 billion per year — as part of sequestration. Those cuts were triggered March 1. The White House proposal does not appear to address the sequestration cuts for the remainder of fiscal 2013, which total about $46 billion.

For months the Pentagon has said it prepared a 2014 budget proposal that did not include sequestration cuts. On Wednesday, a defense official confirmed that the White House Office of Management and Budget has not asked DoD to submit a new spending plan that includes sequestration.

“The President has put forward a specific plan that will avoid sequestration's harmful budget cuts and reduce the deficit in a balanced way — by cutting spending, finding savings in entitlement programs and closing tax loopholes,” according to a statement on the White House website.

On Capitol Hill, the immediate reaction from pro-defense Republicans was mixed.

Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., told Defense News on Wednesday he would be open to $100 billion in outyear defense cuts as a way to avoid the final nine years of the $500 billion sequester cut.

“If you isolate the $100 [billion], obviously I would support that,” Inhofe said. “But I doubt it’s going to be quite that easy. “I anticipate [White House officials] are using that as a carrot to get tax increases,” Inhofe said. “But that sure has my attention.”

Asked about the $580 billion in new revenues the White House plan proposes — something which congressional Republicans have long opposed — Inhofe signaled his opposition.

“I want to see those first, but I seriously doubt I’d support those,” Inhofe said.

While Inhofe signaled a willingness to at least consider parts of the White House plan, especially the lessened defense cuts, one senior House Armed Services Committee aide rejected it.

“What strategic analysis did they do to come up with the $100 billion figure?” the senior HASC aide told Defense News on Wednesday. “[Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin] Dempsey testified to us last month that he can’t keep doing what we are doing around the world with additional cuts, so what is the White House proposing they stop doing?”

The White House had yet to respond to a reporter’s inquiry about the sequestration-replacement plan and what year the $100 billion defense cut begins.

But the timeline laid out by Kendall suggests Congress and the White House would have several years to replace the proposed $100 billion cut with other deficit-reduction measures.

Not good enough, the senior HASC aide said.

“I would be skeptical of additional $100 billion in defense cuts, even in the out years,” the senior aide said. “Dempsey said he couldn’t absorb that, and we take him at his word. Would love to know what strategic assessment led the White House to believe another $100 billion in defense cuts are workable — answer [equals] none.”

———

John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

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