WASHINGTON – The Pentagon’s budget request for fiscal year 2019 will include future years defense program numbers, known as the FYDP, after a one-year blip in which those numbers were mostly not included.
The FYDP, which shows the next five years of projected spending for each budget line, is a vital tool for those trying to track the growth or decline of various programs. But in the FY18 budget request, some programs came with no FYDP figures at all, and in other cases, those numbers were placeholder figures that the acting comptroller said analysts and reporters should largely ignore.
The reason for not having a full FYDP last year was twofold. First, the new administration had to spend so much time at the start of the year trying to get the FY17 budget amended and settled with Congress that it had limited time to deal with the FY18 budget. Skipping a FYDP was a way to make sure the budget got out in a more timely fashion.
The other reason was strategic. Last year, DoD was just beginning the early stages of what would become the National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, Nuclear Posture Review and Ballistic Missile Defense Review, all of which would impact the future spending. Without those reports done, DoD officials argued that future projections would be useless. With all but the missile defense review released, that’s no longer an issue.
Last week, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis confirmed the Trump administration will request $716 billion in national security funding, which covers both the defense department and nuclear programs from the Department of Energy.
Todd Harrison, a budget expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the fact the Pentagon is announcing a FYDP likely means “the administration is more willing to stand behind the projections in the FYDP this year after they’ve had more time to review the budget and put their stamp on it.”
But the more interesting thing for Harrison is whether there will be a FYDP for the Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, accounts, a wartime funding stream that has been accused by some as being a slush-fund for the Pentagon to get around congressionally-mandated budget caps.
“The Department is heavily reliant on OCO funding for ‘enduring’ base budget activities, and it may end up relying even more on OCO funding” if it wants to get to the $716 billion figure, Harrison said. “If they don’t release a FYDP for that OCO funding, then it will leave a lot of unanswered questions about where the buildup is headed and whether it really has legs.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.