US Sen. Carl Levin said he expects the Defense Department's budget request will stay within approved congressional spending limits. (Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — US Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin said Tuesday he doubts the Pentagon’s 2015 budget request will breach spending caps set by Congress.
Large numbers of Republicans and Democrats in both chambers voted for the 2011 Budget Control Act, which capped discretionary defense and domestic spending for 2014 and 2015. The bipartisan budget plan negotiated late last year by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., then extended them through 2021.
Lawmakers are so fond of the caps, in fact, that including them in the bipartisan budget plan enhanced the final vote tallies in both chambers.
In recent weeks, defense analysts and insiders had suggested the Pentagon would simply ignore those caps in its 2015 request. But that notion is being systematically extinguished.
Levin told reporters on Tuesday that he believes the coming DoD request, due on Capitol Hill in early March (a few weeks later than usual), will fit under the caps — even if just barely.
He expects Pentagon officials will use the “future years defense plan [FYDP],” which forecasts expected defense requests for four additional years, to “tell us that, unless we deal with the ‘16 sequestration … what the impacts will be down the road.”
That meshes with comments made by Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby during an interview with Defense News last Friday.
Sources have told Defense News that the White House is considering allowing the Pentagon to show spending levels for 2016 through 2019 — which encompass the FYDP — that are higher than the spending caps.
If that scenario plays out, expect GOP fiscal hawks and anti-Pentagon liberals to cry foul. The former wants deep cuts across the federal budget and the latter will question why the White House is making exceptions only for a Defense Department that makes up such a massive percentage of total discretionary spending. ■