Defense advocates gear up to battle anticipated spending reductions.
The administration will release most — but not all — of its fiscal year 2015 budget on Tuesday, March 4. The release will include the overview of the president's budget and appendices. Many of the cabinet level officers, e.g., the secretary of Health and Human Services, will hold news conferences and share the "Budget in Brief," which will include top line budgets for agencies and will summarize major changes. Research agency budgets will likely look meager, but there is apparently a point to be made.
According to White House officials, the budget will be written to conform to the discretionary levels in the 2013 Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA), but will keep aside the extra $56 billion for defense and nondefense programs that the budget agreement provided. This funding will be segregated as a supplemental bolus, and will not be included within program lines. Instead, the budget will present examples of initiatives the president might like to spend this money on within research, education, infrastructure, training and other priorities.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel got out in front of the budget release by announcing this week a lean FY 2015 Pentagon budgetthat will shrink defense spending by $75 billion over two years. The budget would reduce the Army to a size not seen since before World War II,reducing the number of active duty soldiers from the current size of 520,000 to as low as 440,000. As you may have guessed, the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), and sequestration, are the source of the reduction. Pro-defense members of Congress are concerned and looking for additional funds for the Pentagon. The BCA established the principle of parity between defense and nondefense cuts, and the recent BBA held to that principle. Appropriations allocations — that is, the amount each subcommittee has to spend — are not yet decided for FY 2015. Will Congress be able to adhere to the parity principle? Keep an eye on the Federal Budget Blog for more details.