US Marines participate in an amphibious assault drill as part of exercise Cobra Gold this month in Thailand. An additional $26 billion included in the fiscal 2015 budget proposal would go toward readiness accounts. (AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The extra $26 billion eyed for the US Defense Department in 2015 would fund readiness initiatives and other “base budget type of stuff,” the Pentagon’s top buyer said.
The comment came Tuesday following Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s Monday announcement that the Pentagon would send a $496 billion 2015 budget proposal to Congress next week. That budget is in line with federal defense spending caps.
The White House Office of Management and Budget has put together a separate $58 billion “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative,” which includes $26 billion in defense spending, Hagel said Monday. The Obama administration plans to find this additional money by closing tax loopholes and reforming spending programs, defense and administration officials said.
The defense money is in addition to DoD’s base budget proposal and separate from Afghanistan war budget proposal, according to DoD officials.
“[T]his is $26 billion that we collectively believe needs to be put back in to get us back up to a standard of readiness and buy back much of the operational shrinkage that we’ve had over the last two years, get us back on a track that we have fallen back from over the last two years of these cuts,” Hagel said referring to spending cuts experienced by DoD in 2013 and 2014.
The Defense Department’s 2015 war budget proposal, called overseas contingency operations (OCO), is not yet completed, Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief, told a small group of reporters on Tuesday at a conference sponsored by McAleese and Associates and Credit Suisse.
“I don’t know exactly what’s going to be in OCO. We haven’t finished that yet,” Kendall said. “There’s usually not much in the procurement world in the OCO.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told Defense News he and other lawmakers are eager to see the details of the $26 billion wish list.
Levin said the $26 billion would have to be offset within the federal budget before the funds could be appropriated by Congress due to 2015 spending caps.
The Obama administration has told senior lawmakers it soon will propose what’s known on Capitol Hill as a “pay-for” that would clear space in the federal budget under the caps for the $26 billion in unfunded items.
That offset could include new federal revenues, Levin said. He acknowledged the proposal could meet stiff resistance on the Hill because congressional Republicans’ “default” reaction to Obama administration budget maneuvers that propose new revenues “has been to oppose them.” ■