Thursday, February 5, 2009

Reports: Gap In Future Defense Budget. AV WK.

HAWK: Feb 5, 2009

The Pentagon’s expected funding needs from now through 2013 are far greater than the Defense Department forecast in its 2009 Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) projection, congressional researchers told the House Budget committee Feb. 4.

“By all accounts, there appears to be a gap between projected budgets and the cost of the programs,” said Stephen Daggett, a specialist in defense policy and budgets at the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

He noted Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has urged that the defense budget should have a floor of about 4 percent of Gross Domestic Product. DOD outlays in fiscal 2008 — including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — totaled 4.2 percent. Applying the 4 percent floor to the DOD base budget (not including war costs) “would entail an increase of about $100 billion in fiscal 2010 compared to last year’s projection, and even larger amounts in future years,” Daggett said in his written testimony.

The hearing was a follow-up to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finding last month that carrying out the plans proposed in the 2009 FYDP would require long-term, inflation-adjusted defense spending at levels higher than at the peak of the Reagan administration buildup in the mid-1980s.

“We project that in order to buy the current program without cutting back on the number of aircraft or ships or other major weapons systems … would cost another $43 billion a year on average,” said J. Michael Gilmore, assistant director of the CBO.

Gilmore and Daggett said several factors were driving the projected rise in defense budgets: the growing costs of pay and benefits for military personnel; plans to increase the size of U.S. ground forces; and buying new systems with advanced capabilities that are turning out to be much more expensive than the systems they are going to replace.

Over the past eight years, Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) said, “defense spending has enjoyed a rather permissive environment.” He added that it will be difficult to maintain that spending level amid a receding economy and surging deficit.

“We’ll spend whatever we need to see that our national security needs are met,” Spratt said, cautioning “only now more than ever, given the budget we’ve got, we must ensure we do so in a fiscally sound manner.”