WASHINGTON — The 2016 US defense budget, for the moment, is set. But one would be hard-pressed to find anyone in Washington who believes that the numbers released by the Department of Defense on Feb. 2 will match those the services actually receive once the Sturm und Drang of budget season on Capitol Hill is over.
Overall, Pentagon is asking Congress for $534 billion in base budget money and another $50 billion in supplemental wartime cash for a total request of $585 billion. If that number holds it would shoot well past the congressionally mandated budget cap of $499 billion for 2016, as the Obama administration has long pledged to do.
Between the base and supplemental money, the White House has asked for $24.9 billion more in fiscal 2016 than was enacted in 2015.
And that's not all.
The administration has also readjusted its five-year future budgetary outlook to add an extra $155 billion to the spending caps still in place between 2016 and 2020 under the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). Complete coverage of the fiscal 2016 budget requestWhile the budget numbers keep rising, one influential Democratic congressman called the budget submission "Groundhog Day," because he expects to wage almost the same fights in 2016 as the Hill waged in 2015 over a slew of acquisition and modernization programs that the Pentagon wants to retire or rework.
"I fully expect that Congress will again fight proposals to allow the Department of Defense to deal with the damaging effects of sequestration. We have seen this act before. I hope the ending is different this time around," lamented ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.
Overall, the Pentagon wants to spend $107.7 billion on procurement and $69.8 billion on research and development, with $12.3 billion falling within that for science and technology spending. The biggest lines there include $48.8 billion for aircraft, $25.6 billion for shipbuilding, $8.2 billion for ground systems and $11.9 billion for missiles and munitions.
As a VisualDoD analysis shows, over the past decade, personnel and related support segments have steadily increased, while the outlook for air and naval segments remain mainly positive, with ground vehicle declines expected.
A breakdown of those segments shows that from the 2015 enacted numbers to the 2016 request, Air Force weapons and missiles funding jumps by $2.4 billion while naval surface combatant funding increases by $5 billion. Conversely, there is a $4 billion cut in ground accounts, primarily in operations and maintenance.
An independent analysis conducted by Guggenheim Partners on Feb. 5 estimated that as the budget is currently configured, several prominent industry titans would stand to make solid gains over last year's enacted budget.
The Army's budget is slated to grow the least among all the services, rising to $126 billion from 2015's $119 billion, but with the supplemental wartime account included the service would actually receive about $400 million less than the previous year. Still,it is actually driving some of the bigger gains for industry.
Guggenheim's analysis holds that BAE Systems would see some healthy gains, with the service ramping up spending on a variety of new ground platforms, including the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, M2 Bradley upgrades and Paladin howitzer system.
Oshkosh Defense is also slated to see over $300 million in new orders for the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles and steady business from the M-ATV modernization program.
Lockheed Martin's upcoming F-35 fighter and C-130J transport builds will also be a positive for the company, while Boeing is slated to receive more work on the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, KC-46A tanker and AH-64 Apache helicopter.
As far as Navy programs, Huntington Ingalls will reap the benefits of aircraft carrier and amphibious ship spending, while United Technologies will take advantage of more work in the rotary wing sector across the services, specifically on Army Black Hawks, the presidential helicopter, the Marine Corps CH-53, and the Air Force's search-and-rescue helicopter.
But all of this is dependent on the budget remaining intact through the long summer and contentious fall of fiscal horse trading. And with the Pentagon's submission being $34 billion over the BCA's spending cap and no congressional "grand bargain" tobring order to Washington's fiscal affairs in the making, this is all subject to change.